THE owner of a Bournemouth bookmaker says the upward trend for raiding betting shops is “a worrying time for anyone involved in the industry”.

Police were last night still hunting a robber thought to have raided both the Coral at Castle Lane West on Thursday and Ladbrokes at Christchurch Road on Wednesday – and yesterday moved to reassure the public.

The suspect threatened staff with a hammer at Ladbrokes and a large knife at Coral – making off with cash from both.

The incidents follow a raid at Coral in Wimborne Road, Winton, last month and attacks at three convenience stores in recent weeks.

Martin Johnstone, owner of Bournemouth-based independent bookmakers Jem Racing, said security and staff safety were paramount at his firm.

He added: “The days of bookmakers holding vast amounts of cash are over. Generally speaking, whenever a large bet is taken for a future event, the cash is paid directly into the bank.

“Any cash that needs to be kept for any winning bets is held in a time-delayed safe and if any potential robber wants to wait 15 minutes for the safe to open, then good luck to him.

“The amount of cash which is actually held in any of our tills at any one time is minimal.

“Our shops also have panic alarms installed which, when activated, go directly to the police station.

“It is obviously a worrying time for anyone involved in the industry.”

DCI Jez Noyce of Bournemouth and Poole CID, said: “These crimes are all being investigated individually and I would like to reassure the public that investigating these crimes is a priority for Dorset Police – with two men already being charged separately for two of those offences.

“We have received many calls in response to our witness and information appeals and gained a lot of information.

“Despite this recent spate of criminal activity I stress that these types of robberies are not usual for Dorset.

“Perpetrators arrested will be dealt with robustly and anyone convicted of such a crime is likely to face a very lengthy prison sentence.”

He urged shop staff to be vigilant and to make sure that safety features like CCTV were in working order.