Thieves hit string of local businesses

December 15, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Danville police are investigating a string of business robberies and burglaries they believe might be related to a need for holiday cash.

At least seven businesses have been victimized by thieves in recent weeks, some more than once. No arrests have been made, but Sgt. Tony Gray said "strong suspects" have been identified in some of the break-ins while two robberies have police still scrambling for leads.

"The burglaries do kind of rise this time of year," Gray said. "They are also probably drug-related, but it's like people say 'I've wasted my money on drugs and now I need money to get Christmas presents,' so they get more active."

Investigators are asking for help in solving the armed robbery of a Pizza Hut employee on Nov. 7. Assistant manager Charle Butler had just finished closing the store on Hustonville Road shortly before 3 a.m. when she was approached by a man with a gun in the parking lot. The robber took the store's deposit, ordered Butler to lie down in the parking lot and fled on foot, Gray said.


The suspect is described as a white male about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a slim build. He was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and jeans with a black cloth covering his face, Gray said.

A strong-armed robbery of a Papa John's delivery man on Dec. 4 also has police stumped. Gray said the driver had just delivered a pizza to Shakerpoint Apartments about 9:30 p.m. when he was attacked. A man in a gray jacket and gray scarf covering his face struggled with the driver before stealing his wallet and escaping, Gray said. The driver suffered minor injuries.

The suspect in that robbery was about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed about 220 pounds.

On Dec. 3, Know When to Fold 'Em, Sonic and Hairscapes all were broken into. Thieves used rocks to smash out windows at the laundrymat and Sonic, both on Hustonville Road, and forced their way into a back entrance at Hairscapes on Broadway.

Police waiting on lab results

Gray said police believe those burglaries are related and multiple suspects have been identified but not yet arrested. "We're waiting for some evidence to come back from the lab and if it comes back like we think it will, we will make arrests," he said.

Know When to Fold 'Em employee Phyllis Trent said the laundrymat has been hit twice more since the Dec. 3 break-in, most recently overnight on Monday.

"There's no money left in the building overnight, so they just keep breaking in for nothing," Trent said.

Freddie's Restaurant on Fourth Street downtown also has been victimized more than once. Someone broke in through a back door on Dec. 11 and stole cash, a stereo and other items, Gray said. On Monday night or Tuesday morning, someone threw a rock through a front window of the restaurant, but nothing was taken, he said.

Police have a suspect in the Freddie's burglary and that person also might be responsible for breaking out the window, Gray said, but an arrest warrant has not yet been served.

Chill's convenience store on Hustonville Road also was hit on Nov. 21 when someone smashed out a window and stole cash, Gray said. A suspect not involved in the other burglaries has been identified but not arrested, he said.

With the increase in criminal activity and the holiday season going full-tilt, Gray said businesses can take some actions that might reduce the chances of being hit.

Improved lighting and video cameras trained on entrances and parking lots can deter crime, he said. Varying routines during closing times also can help make it more difficult for a robber to plan his crime.

"It's a good a idea to use a team to close down your store, especially if you're a restaurant or other business that stays open late," Gray said.

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