A wave of violent crime is hitting Jewish areas in London and Manchester and police in London are warning that shoppers need a heightened awareness, may need to “dress down” and should avoid wearing expensive jewellery and accessories.
In the latest attack in north-west London, two women were beaten and robbed by a gang as they returned home from a shopping trip.
Hannah Kleinfeld and a friend were mugged by two men on the driveway of Mrs Kleinfeld’s home after they got out of her Lexus car.
Police are investigating the possibility that the women were targeted while shopping in Hampstead on Sunday afternoon and then followed back to the property in Woodside Park.
Mrs Kleinfeld, an administrator for the Hanoar Hatzioni youth movement, is a friend of gift-shop owner Lorretta Paterson, who was severely beaten in October during a car-jacking in Temple Fortune. Mrs Paterson is now campaigning for CCTV in the area.
A number of Jewish businesses have been targeted by ram-raiders and gangs in the area.
Mother-of-three Mrs Kleinfeld said: “My friend was looking for her car-keys in her bag. I was standing there and I saw these figures. It was a nightmare. One was running towards me. He was wearing all black with a hood up.
“He ran up to me and shoved me over. I hit my face on the way down and he kept screaming: ‘Give me everything, give me your rings, give me your watch or I will shoot you.’
“I did not believe he had a gun but I gave him my diamanté dress watch and he took my Prada bag with my cards and mobile in.”
Her friend, who did not want to be named, said: “The guy grabbed me from behind and threw me on the ground. He kept on trying to get my jewellery and handbag.
“But I put up a fight. I was not going to let them get away with it. I told him if he let me go I would give him the jewellery. He released me and I elbowed him.
“I thought I could escape but he grabbed me again and put his hand over my mouth and he said he’d kill me. So I bit his hand.”
She kept her valuables but suffered bruising, cuts on her hand and swelling in her knees, legs and face. Mrs Kleinfeld, 52, was able to crawl into her car and lock the doors. She began “hooting the horn like crazy” in an attempt to alert her husband and sons and the men ran off.
The women said police told them gangs are now waiting outside shops and restaurants looking for women wearing designer jewellery or carrying fashionable handbags and then following them home. They were advised to dress down and avoid wearing expensive items when shopping.
“Women need to know they have to take care. They should always be on guard and make sure no one is following them. At the moment it seems Jewish women are the target. It’s easy picking them off,” said Mrs Kleinfeld.
Det Insp Duncan Wood, of Barnet Police, said: “We are vigorously investigating this incident and every possible lead is being followed.”
In another attack in Temple Fortune a fortnight ago, the Marks & Spencer store on Finchley Road was targeted by a gang who smashed their way in through a back door but ran away after setting off alarms.
Health and Safety Officer Bernard Perera said the incident had led to security for shoppers and workers being increased.
“We already have a security guard from 1pm until we close at 9pm. He patrols the shop and car park, which is lit until 10.30pm. We also have CCTV in the store and outside.
“But the store manager is now in the process of getting new, more secure doors and an all-day security guard.”
In north Manchester, three intruders used an axe to slash the back of a man in his 60s when they raided a couple’s home in Prestwich. The attack came an hour after another Jewish family fell victim to a similar burglary.
The armed trio, wielding axes and a baseball bat, smashed through the front door of the house at 8.50pm on Monday night. The 61-year-old woman inside set off the burglar alarm but the intruders ripped the alarm’s control unit from the wall. The men, dressed in grey hooded tops and balaclavas, went upstairs where the husband was slashed across his back after struggling with them as they ransacked every room in search of valuables.
The police came minutes after his wife escaped to the garden with a mobile phone and dialled 999. When they arrived, she was still outside listening to the cries of her injured husband. The assailants got away with just £72 in cash. It is the second time the couple have been targeted in recent months.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said: “I saw a grey-hooded man in the hallway. They kicked the front door in. They came over a low fence from next door. They were armed with an axe, a baseball bat and a pickaxe: three men all wearing balaclavas and dark gloves.
“All you see is weapons. I ran to the key pad and set off alarms; he hit the alarm system with the baseball bat and broke the keypad.”
Three miles away, a gang of five robbers broke into a house in Whitefield and threatened a family with an axe. They injured a man inside and stole a Cadillac car, but it was later found abandoned nearby.
The family, who had children in the house, were too distraught to recount the incident.
Det Insp John Mazzolai of Bury CID said there was no direct evidence that Jewish houses were being targeted but he is linking the burglaries.
He said: “The incidents are unique in their violence. We are currently following a number of lines of inquiry, including the hunt for a black Audi A3 that the assailants were driving.”
Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust said: “These are two very worrying crime dynamics and obviously require our community to be aware of suspicious behaviour around their homes and also when out on the streets.
“In North Manchester, there are many Jews living in an area that has suffered from relatively high violent crime rates for some considerable time.
These attacks seem to fit that context — and it is not only Jews who are being attacked.
“The situation around Temple Fortune is more recent and information is still coming to light, but it seems clear that women are being targeted on the assumption that they are rich and vulnerable: and there have certainly been Jewish victims, which of course then spreads fear throughout our community.
“The CST has good long-standing relationships with police in both areas.
“We have to stop criminals from regarding our community as an easy target.”