A GANG of balaclava-wearing thieves is on the run after robbing four businesses, including two Knox service stations and a supermarket, in a week.

Police, who believe the thieves could be responsible for other burglaries dating back several weeks, are so worried about the group they’ve started an operation to catch them, which includes police patrols at night.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think of the crime rate in Knox? Tell us below.

Knox detective Senior Sergeant Neil White said police believed the group of up to four people had stolen cigarettes from:

■ Ferntree Gully Coles, Ferntree Gully Rd, on June 5 between 2.30am and 2.45am

■ United Fuel service station, Ferntree Gully Rd, Scoresby on June 8 at 3am; and

■ BP service station, Dorset Rd, Bayswater, on June 13 at 3.30am

Sen-Sgt White said the group also stole perfume from Chemist Warehouse, Hampton Park, on June 8 and unsuccessfully tried to break into a BP service station on Canterbury Rd, Vermont, at 3.20am on June 13.

The stores were closed at the time.

Police are also investigating whether the group was responsible for stealing cigarettes from three service stations in Bayswater North, Hawthorn and Doncaster on Thursday night (June 15).

Sen-Sgt White said police believed the thieves often used different cars.

He urged anyone who saw suspicious behaviour in the early morning around supermarkets or service stations to phone 000.

Meanwhile, the latest Crime Statistics Agency figures, released last week, revealed crime in Knox increased by 17.9 per cent over the past year.

There were 12,339 offences in Knox in the year ending March 31, 2017, up from 10,467 offences at the same time last year.

Thefts jumped 36.5 per cent, from 3635 to 4961; drug use and possession offences went up 35.7 per cent, from 586 to 795; and break-ins and burglaries increased by 11 per cent, from 933 to 1036.

Extracted from Herald Sun.