Gangs of masked men, armed with knives, hammers and a crowbar, robbed two service stations in Melbourne’s north early yesterday.

The robberies were committed by men in two different cars within minutes of each other. The Thomastown Caltex and BP stations targeted are on the same road.

The attendant at the Caltex station managed to lock himself in a back room but the BP attendant was “moved around the store” by the offenders and slapped across the face, police said.

Senior constable Mark Mulvany said four men in a silver SUV used hammers to smash their way into the Caltex station about 4.45am.

He said the attendant locked himself in the back room while the offenders, who were armed with a hammer and a knife, jumped the counter and stole cigarettes.

About the same time a group of men pulled up at the BP service station in a black Toyota Camry. They were armed with hammers and a crowbar.

Constable Mulvany said six men entered the service station, assaulted the attendant and stole cigarettes and cash. “It’s just too early at this stage of the investigation to determine any link,” he said.

The men were of African ­appearance but were “masked up”, preventing identification, Constable Mulvany said.

He said police did not know if the cars involved were stolen and he urged witnesses to come forward. He said the offending was “high impact” and although the attendant at the BP service station did not require hospital treatment, he was understandably still “quite distraught”.

Australasian Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Jeff Rogut called for Victoria Police Chief Commissioner ­Graham Ashton to work in a­ ­service station at night after Mr Ashton said claims people were afraid to live in the state were “utter garbage”.

“(He needs) to recognise the real issue and not try and sweep it under the carpet,” Mr Rogut said.

He said the attitudes by police and the government were putting people’s lives at risk.

Extracted from The Australian.