Thieves have left a trail of destruction through Hunter Valley wine country with more than 20 businesses broken into in the past six weeks.
At least 22 restaurants, cellar doors and retail stores around the vineyards area have been ransacked since the start of June, leaving business owners frustrated and out of pocket.
Business people in wine country believe the area’s isolation makes it vulnerable to crime.
The problem culminated last Saturday when five businesses across Broke Road and Mistletoe Lane were targeted overnight.
Less than 48 hours earlier Saddler’s Creek Wines was hit when someone busted a window open about 4.30am Friday.
The offender stole a laptop and a safe that was bolted into concrete.
Chief winemaker Brett Woodward said the person was inside the building for less than 10 minutes before they jumped into a getaway car.
Mr Woodward said the business did not lose much in the incident, which was captured on CCTV, but it was a major inconvenience.
“It was not a huge amount of money, but it’s just frustrating,” he said.
“They think everyone else’s business is their business.”
It was a similar scenario at Buon Cibo Ristorante at Pokolbin Village a week before.
A bar stool was thrown through the glass door in the early hours of Sunday, July 2.
Owner Coral McBlain said a cash drawer with about $10 in it and an iPad with a cracked screen were stolen.
“You always feel violated when something like this happens,” she said.
“They caused a whole lot of destruction for not much reward.”
Nearby business Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop, which is also part of Pokolbin Village, was broken into on the same morning.
More than $1000 in damage was caused with only a donation tin for the Rural Fire Service missing.
Owner Tony Drice said thefts were nothing new for the area.
“It’s just a normal every day occurrence,” he said.
One woman has been charged in relation to three of the incidents at the start of July.
Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector George Radmore said police were actively investigating. He believed there was a reasonable chance of police identifying the offenders.
Information should be reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.