'Three Minute Team' jailed for £100,000 shop raids across Wearside and County Durham (From The Northern Echo)
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Sunderland gang dubbed the 'Three Minute Team' jailed for shop raids across Wearside and County Durham
A PROFESSIONAL shop raid gang were so well-drilled to get in and out in a flash they were known as “the three-minute team”.
They would carry out dry runs at stores during opening hours and return after closing time to snatch their valuable hauls.
They used a jemmy to get through security shutters - or simply hurl a heavy drain cover through a window - and flee in high-powered cars.
Aware of closed circuit television camera locations inside, the raiders wore balaclavas or face coverings when they struck at night.
But they were completely unconcerned by alarms sounding because they would be away from the scene before police could arrive.
Even blinding anti-burglary smoke bombs going off did not slow them as they knew exactly where the cigarettes and lottery tickets would be.
Police linked 32 break-ins across County Durham and Wearside, and were able to prove the gang was responsible for 17 of them.
Operation Park Royal 3 officers described them as "well-organised and professional" with a "simple yet effective" method.
Four members of the team are behind bars now, although detectives believe there are five others who have not been caught.
A source said: "They were always security-conscious with gloves and face disguises, but paid little attention to shop security.
"Rarely were they inside the premises for more than three or four minutes because they had cased them and knew what they after."
Gary Rarity, 30, Lee Barnett, 36, Tony Trott, 24, and Anthony Schofield, 33, were arrested in a police swoop last summer.
The men, all from the Sunderland area, admitted conspiracy to burgle and were jailed for between 16 months and three years and four months.
Judge Peter Armstrong, at Teesside Crown Court, said the £100,000 six-month crime spree was "professionally-planned and serious".
A high-powered get-away car – often stolen and often a Subaru Impreza – would by waiting outside the shop with its boot open.
The vehicles had false number-plates fitted and on one occasion the team tried to ram a police car in a desperate bid to get away.
On another occasion, a get-away car smashed into the fence of a house as it tried to outrun chasing cops, said prosecutor Shaun Dodds.
A duvet cover was used to carry off cigarettes, money and scratchcards, which were taken from kiosks after shutters were forced.
Barristers for the four said they were not part of the "central hub" of the gang and had been drawn in because they were short of cash.
Tom Moran, for Barnett, who was caught along with Trott in Operation Park Royal 2, said: "He only knows of one way to get money quickly.
"Certainly, there are hallmarks of professionalism, but some of the offences have hallmarks of desperation and ineptitude.
"In three of them, they got absolutely nothing back and in a fourth got about £100 worth of goods from Asda.
"In another offence, helpfully left behind at the scene was a blood-stained duvet that gave a link indirectly back to him."
The source said: "In one raid, the time between their car pulling up and leaving was caught on camera and it was barely three minutes, which was quite typical."