WORRIED business owners fear they could be next on the robbery hit list as Canvey has become gripped by high level crime.

Twelve armed robberies have taken place on the island since January, with six in the past five weeks alone, putting traders and residents on high alert.

Canvey Amusements, in Furtherwick Road became the latest victim of the crime spree when masked robbers held up staff at gunpoint on Sunday before making off with a four-figure sum.

Now, business owners who have not been victimised have confessed they feel under threat and that it is only a matter of time before they too are struck.

Kirit Patel, owner of News For You newsagents in Furtherwick Road, situated opposite Canvey Amusements, said: “Now the robberies have come into the town centre itself I am really concerned. I heard about the robbery over the road am extremely worried we could become a target.I’ve had to hire extra staff at extra cost to me as a precaution.

“Serious crime is everywhere at the moment but what can we do to stop it? We need more police officers here while the situation is as it is.”

Concerns have also been raised by staff at the Londis in Canvey Road, situated just yards from convenience store Bargain Booze which was recently held up twice at knifepoint in the space of three weeks.

A 24-year-old worker, who did not wish to be named, said: “Now it’s getting dark after about 3pm there’s only going to be more opportunities for shops to be robbed. I am really scared about it, everyone knows what’s happening on the island at the moment, and at the end of the day if someone comes in to rob us we can’t really defend ourselves.

“We could be next, who knows. Last Saturday, our sister store in the High Street was burgled as thieves just came in, walked behind the till and took bottles and bottles of alcohol. The police station is only open certain hours now, and criminals know that officers are coming long distances and are clearly taking advantage.”

Opposition councillor Dave Blackwell announced yesterday he will be lobbying Castle Point Council to see if the authority can request police carry out more patrols in the area.

District inspector Chris Wood told the Echo earlier this week the force was doing all it could to monitor areas where robberies had taken place on the island and is encouraging anyone with information to contact Essex Police on 101.