Investigators in Dougherty and Lee County report an increase in robbery by snatching cases, especially in convenience stores. Over the weekend Crooks snatched cartons of cigarettes in front of startled clerks at stores in both counties. The thefts were caught on surveillance video. Investigators are asking for your help to bring the crooks to justice.
Crooks know if they use a gun to rob the store, they could spend decades in prison. But just grab something and run, the crooks might think it's no big deal. But police say it's still a robbery. A woman went into the Fast Lane at 3000 Sylvester Road just after 7:00 Sunday morning.
She asks for two cartons of Newport Cigarettes, and pulls out a credit card and starts swiping it while the clerk bags the cartons.
Dougherty County Police Sgt. Chad Kirkpatrick said, "Does it kind of fast and the clerk noticed, it didn't read the card. The clerk had already bagged up the cigarettes and put them in the bag. She snatched the bag off the counter and quickly exited the store."
She just grabbed the cigarettes and runs. She got into a waiting blue Chrysler PT Cruiser and takes off with almost $100 worth of cigarettes. In Lee County at the Flash Foods on Highway 19 South, a man walks in at 10:15 Saturday night, and asks for two cartons of Newports.
Lee County Sheriff's Office Investigator Matt Pearce said "As soon as she bagged it up for him, he snatched the bag from her and left on foot from the Flash Foods." Police are not sure if these two robberies by snatching are connected, but Investigators from both counties know they are seeing more similar crimes.
"Actually we have. In the last month or so we've had a couple of cases of shoplifting or robbery type cases. Where people are going into stores snatching items and leaving," Kirkpatrick said.
If the crooks use a gun to rob the store, they are looking at about ten additional years. Investigators think these crooks figure just running will be less serious if they are caught.
"Typically robbery by snatching is a crime of opportunity. But for somebody who is in the system, a criminal for life, they'll know that armed robbery carries a hefty fine. There are additional charges that go with armed robbery," Pearce said.
But robbery by snatching is still a robbery, and a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Investigators are asking you to look at these robbers, and help them identify and arrest them. If you recognize them, call CRIMESTOPPERS at 436-TIPS, and you could earn a reward.
District Attorney Greg Edwards says he hopes tough gun penalties are encouraging crooks not to use guns, but he insists his office will still ask tough for penalties against robbers who aren't armed. Many stores keep cigarettes locked up behind their counters.
Police suggest that clerks make sure customers pay for cigarettes before putting cartons on the counter.