Jan 10 2013 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
lecini and kalaj
SAFE-smashing burglars from Harrow were part of a ‘highly organised’ Albanian crime gang that stole about £150,000 from High Street businesses.
The crooks targeted a string of restaurants, betting shops and Bureaux de Change, including unspecified businesses in Harrow and Wealdstone, at a rate of more than one a week over three months.
They carried out the thefts in the late evening, disabling alarms and other security measures and using power tools or plain brute force to break in.
Several of them would keep a look out until the safes, some weighing more than 100kg, were loaded on to a getaway lorry using specialist lifting equipment and transported elsewhere to be opened and emptied.
Detective Sergeant Graeme Simpson, of the Metropolitan Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Command said: “These were a group of highly organised burglars who met regularly to plan their criminality together.
“They stole approximately £150,000 cash over the three month period between mid-December 2011 and mid-March 2012, but the cost of the damage to the businesses in terms of repairs, lost revenue and staff costs has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“Thanks to the close liaison with our partners, we were able to identify and link these series of burglaries and put a stop to them.
“We will now work with UK Border Agency to identify immigration offences and where appropriate get them deported after their sentences.”
Officers believe the thieves also targeted commercial premises in central London’s Oxford Street, as well as east London, Hayes, Shepperton and Guildford in Surrey.
Eight gang members were sentenced at Harrow Crown Court on Monday including Elton Kalaj, 27, of Churchill Place, Harrow, who denied the charge but was convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary and sentenced to five years and six months in jail.
Arben Lecini, 35, of Cannon Lane, Pinner, who denied the charge, was convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary and sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
Klodian Haliti, 30, of Station Road, Harrow, admitted conspiracy to commit burglary and was sentenced to two years’ jail.
Haliti was caught red-handed in February 2012 trying to break into a property near Guildford along with three accomplices who were among the five remaining gang members – two from Hayes, one from Golders Green, north-west London, and two of no fixed address, each jailed for between two-and-a-half and eight years for conspiracy to commit burglary.