A Milton Keynes community rocked by a wave of crime is threatening to launch its own vigilante nightwatch patrols unless police do more to catch the culprits.
Wolverton has suffered so many burglaries of business premises over the past two months that even the victims have lost count.
Now the latest attack has involved violence for the first time - and it has sent a shiver of dread through the town.
The offender held a 12 inch knife held to a shop assistant’s tummy just as she was preparing to close the Budgens store in Stratford Park.
He demanded she open the till and helped himself to the contents - a £5 note and a handful of coins - before fleeing. The assistant, a woman in her thirties, was uninjured but badly shocked.
The new twist of violence has led to a renewed call for action from victims, some of whom have been burgled more than once.
The break-ins, which usually take place between 3am and 4am, began eight weeks ago. The first targets were take-way food stores but recently the crime wave has spread to other shops and businesses - including the town’s doctor’s surgery.
In all cases the crooks have take small amounts of cash or charity boxes but caused hundreds of pounds worth of damage by breaking in.
During one burglary at Prime Pet Supplies - see video above - and CP Locks on New Year's Eve the crooks were captured on CCTV taking just 28 second to break in, trash half the store and help themselves to goods.
Residents are volunteering to set up shifts of people to patrol the town every night.
“We’re not vigilantes but something has to be done. There’s a burglary almost every night,” said one.
Wolverton and Greenleys town Council is hoping such action can be avoided. They are holding a meeting tonight (Thursday) at 6pm at Kings community Centre for residents, police and local councillors to discuss solutions.
A spokesman said: "This wave of burglaries is really affecting the community. We are hoping that by bringing everybody together to discuss the problem, a solution can be found."
Much of Wolverton is in a conservation area and businesses are required to seek planning permission before installing shutters on the outside of the old Victorian windows and doors. Conservation officers will be at the meeting to provide advice on the best systems to use and what requires permission.
Meanwhile business owners are advised to leave their tills empty and open at night so the burglars can see there is nothing to steal.
The Citizen is awaiting a comment from the police.