BUSINESSES across the city have counted the cost of burglaries, thefts and damage in the past year.

The Argus has reported on dozens of break-ins at shops, cafes, hairdressers and other small firms in Brighton and Hove in 2019.

While many larger chain shops and businesses can afford security and insurance costs, the impact for small business owners can be devastating.

They reported suffering from sleepless nights and the fear they may even lose their business as a result of the crimes.

Those affected by burglary included Tony Bejko, Liv Mulhern and Michael Bell, who said they were living amid fears of an “epidemic” of break-ins on businesses around North Laine this autumn.

Ms Mulhern, owner of e-cigarette shop Vapertrails in Trafalgar Street, said: “There’s an atmosphere of dread, fear and insecurity.

“My shop is sandwiched between two that were targeted just days apart. I’ve had sleepless nights. A lot of people are afraid.

“It’s often a man with a push bike accompanied by another man or a woman. They’re not that sophisticated.

The Argus:

“If it was sophisticated they’d be clearing the shop out. Instead they tend to smash windows and doors and go straight for the till.”

Shortly before Christmas, Neoma Design shop owner Dolores Swift reported that burglars had stolen unique handbags she had created.

It left her business in Trafalgar Street, North Laine, under threat for the new year, as each piece was handmade to order.

Ms Swift said: “I was shocked, in disbelief. It made me feel that my shop is vulnerable, the neighbours said they didn’t see anything.

“I was shaking and didn’t know what to do, I’ve never had a shop broken into before.”

The Argus:

During the summer there was a spate of break-ins in and around Hove, including a daylight robbery at the former La Cave a Fromage in Western Road.

A shopworker was attacked by robber Ahmed Said, who admitted smashing up the shop and burgling several other businesses in the area, including nearby City Books.

The shop later closed its doors to customers, and at the time manager David Deaves said: “Over the past few weeks it has been quite a concern to businesses here. There are too many for it to be a coincidence.

“It is happening far too often, and if they are starting to do this during the day when staff are on the premises. You don’t know what will happen, they could be carrying a weapon or a knife.

“You think about the consequences it might lead to and it’s horrifying. Staff should not have to feel unsafe in their place of work.”

The Argus:

Said, 32, of Marine Parade, Brighton, admitted robberies and burglaries at Hove Crown Court, where he was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

He was taking class A drugs at the time of the offences and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Meanwhile Muhhammed Ahmed, 35, was jailed for one year for his part in a spate of burglaries, while his girlfriend Kerry Gent was spared prison for her role helping him in one of the break-ins at Cafe Artista in Waterloo Street, Hove.

The Artista Cafe owner, who did not wish to be named, said: “As a result of the burglary I had sleepless nights. The criminals were hanging around in the area for weeks.

“I saw them and thought they might be looking to break into the cafe again. I had to stay up watching out of the window for fear of being broken into again.

“When I went out to confront them in the street, they told me they knew where I lived, there was an implied threat.”

In August, The Argus spoke with Amit Arora and Michal Zaczynski, who own hairdressers Michal in Upper North Street, Brighton.

Mr Arora said: “Why would someone do this to a person’s business?

“Our neighbour was going to work and he said there were four guys trying to break in.

“Two were standing on the other side of the road and the other two were trying to break the door.

“He shouted ‘we’re calling the police’ and then tried running after them.”

The Argus:

Then in September businesses in London Road, Brighton, were targeted, including the Cosy Cottage Cafe, run by Ali Parsa.

Other business owners had more success in capturing the criminals.

In November chippy boss Ramez Khalil managed to close the shutters at the Preston Fish Bar in Beaconsfield Road, trapping a would-be burglar inside before police arrived.

Detective Chief Inspector Alasdair Henry said burglary is “abhorrent” for officers, who are determined to catch the criminals.

The Argus:

Detective Superintendent Mike Ashcroft said police work alongside businesses to offer advice and support to cut crime.

He said: “We are working hard to reduce burglary in the city and will continue to work to protect members of our communities from this crime.

“We treat burglary as a serious matter and our prevention teams are working closely with the community to reduce the opportunities for criminals to commit these crimes.

“None of this is achieved without everyone’s support and I am grateful to all our partners, including Neighbourhood Watch and members of the community who work with us regularly to reduce burglary and bring offenders to justice.

“We have an engagement network to disseminate alerts and information around trends and individuals who may be a risk to businesses in order and support them with appropriate crime prevention activity and target hardening.

“This is done directly and in collaboration with business crime reduction partnerships and business improvement districts.

“Over the last few months we have made a number of arrests and in September a man was jailed for eight burglaries he carried out in Hove in the summer and another man is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty earlier this month to five business burglaries in Brighton and Hove.

“We all have a part to play to help keep Sussex safe and I urge residents to follow police advice and keep their property secure so that they are not a target for burglars.”

Operation Magpie offers advice to firms on preventing crime, visit for more information.