LIBERAL Democrat Councillor, John Beirne has called for "urgent action" to combat crime on an industrial estate being targeted by thieves and vandals.

Following a series of ram-raids and break-ins, business tenants in Baxters Lane on Sutton estate are demanding that the council improves security measures to reduce the number of attacks on property and stop businesses from being driven away from the area.

Tenants have been forced to take extreme measures to protect their businesses and although a Business Watch Scheme was set up in October in an effort to tackle the number of incidents, the problem continues to escalate.

Tony Reed, of Pine Traders, on the estate, said crime in the area has reached a "ridiculous level" with one business having been broken into three times since Christmas. Last week thieves broke into his business through a brick wall and he has now been forced to erect 10 ft steel plating along the wall.

He added: "It became apparent at the last Business Watch meeting that local councillors were completely unaware of the huge problems, hardships and costs faced by local businesses."

Tenants and Councillor Beirne want the council to improve fencing and lighting in the area and to cut back obstructive shrubbery. They have also asked that a security unit is installed to monitor activity 24 hours a day.

St Helens Council has met tenants to discuss the problem and are to issue a questionnaire to obtain their views and suggestions for improvements, but the tenants and Councillor Beirne said this wasn't enough.

And Councillor Beirne demanded a swift response and he warned: "The council needs to deal with this problem quickly, before more properties are broken into. I want council officers to visit each individual unit to see exactly what needs to be done.

"Week in and week out, businesses are targeted by thieves.

"Last week one tenant lost £20,000 worth of stock. If we don't act now, we will lose jobs and businesses," he added.

PC Jim Scotson, the Sutton Oak Business Watch Officer, said that St Helens Police has been "active" in its response to the criminal activity on the estate and extra police patrols in the area had led to the arrest of 12 people since the end of January. He added that there were plans to introduce Neighbourhood Policing in April which would result in more officers patrolling the area.

ANYONE who can help the police with their inquiries can contact DC Jeff Huxley at St Helens CID on 0151 777 6876 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.