THIEVES “ransacked” a deli as they broke in with a crowbar and tried to crack open its safe.

The owner said the raid was “like something out of a movie.”

A gang of five gathered outside The Laine Deli on Trafalgar Street just before midnight on Tuesday.

Two thieves prised open a side window with a crowbar, clambered in, and made off with an iPad, a phone, and a camera – but failed to crack open the deli’s metal safe.

Then, a burglar came back to the scene at 5.20am equipped with a large bag of tools and made another unsuccessful bid to break into the safe.

Police said “intruders ransacked the premises”, “damaging equipment and stealing items as they went.”

On Wednesday morning, forensic officers with rubber gloves, dusters, and torches were taking photos at the scene.

The Argus:

The deli was closed for business. Speaking amid debris littered over the floor, manager Dominic Ponton said he had captured CCTV footage of “two men wearing Puffa-type jackets breaking in”. He said one had a Nike bag and Nike trainers, and both had cropped hair.

Dominic and his staff were left “shaken up” when they arrived for work yesterday morning. He said: “The team have all been affected. I’m concerned for the business, too. The thieves didn’t make away with much, but we’ve had to close for the day and customers are having to walk away. I don’t know why they targeted us.

“When we arrived at 7.30am we saw the broken crockery and window fittings. They ripped the entire side of the counter off and tore down the shelves as they tried to access the safe.

The Argus:

“They made for the cash register too but we don’t keep cash in it overnight. There’s more damage downstairs, and the window itself cost £700 to replace recently. It’s triple locked and made of toughened glass, but obviously the wood isn’t so strong.”

Dominic said the deli, which serves locally-roasted coffee, artisan food and cakes, has been broken into four times in the last eight years.

He said: “The last one was two and a half years ago, but we’ve seen from damage to the window there have been attempts in the last few months.

“In the past, the break-ins around here seemed more opportunistic and down to people grabbing whatever they can get their hands on. But this seemed more organised. There was a larger group, and they came back prepared.”

Others shop owners on the street are afraid. Liv Mulhern runs the Trafalgar Street Traders Group, which supports local businesses. Her e-cigarette shop was broken into last year in a spate of break-ins.

She said traders now feel like “sitting ducks”.

The Argus: “It doesn’t seem like its dying down. We had the break-in at Neoma Design in Trafalgar Street just before Christmas”, she said.

“The owner was devastated. I know the police are doing their best, but it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact. A lot of us feel like we’re sitting ducks.”

Sussex Police are appealing for witnesses. The force insists it treats break-ins seriously and said it had arrested several thieves in the last few months.