Police are dealing with a spate of commercial robberies in Richmond County over the past several weeks.
“We know it, recognize it and are trying to do something about it,” Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Allan Rollins said Wednesday.
Several crimes, including robberies, tend to rise during the holidays and then fall back off at the start of the year. Instead, police have been dealing with robberies to businesses around the county.
Commercial robberies were down 18 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.
According to the sheriff’s office, there were 12 in December, but there have already been five in the first week of January. Rollins said stats are not available for this week yet, but the public information division has released surveillance footage for four cases that occurred this week – two on Monday and two on Tuesday.
On Monday, investigators were called to robberies at Family Dollar, 206 Sandbar Ferry Road, and TPS, 3671 Peach Orchard Road. In the Family Dollar case the bandit was armed with a handgun and fired a shot as he ran from the store. The TPS bandit was armed with a rifle and fired a shot in the gas station ceiling.
On Tuesday, robberies were reported at Discount Stop, 545 Sandbar Ferry Road, and Save-A-Lot, 2728 Peach Orchard Road. The Discount Stop robber escaped prior to police arrival.
Employees at Save-A-Lot locked the suspects inside the store. Deputies arrested one suspect, Jaquan Quinton Johnson, 18, but police believe there were others who either fled or were hiding in the store. Deputies and firefighters searched the building with thermal imaging but were not able to locate anyone inside. A deputy remained at the locked business overnight to watch for the hiding suspect. This morning when employees arrived, he appeared in the store and escaped. Deputies set up a perimeter and searched the area with K-9s but were unable to locate him. Police identified two suspects as Arthur Murray and Benedict Bernard Bennett. A third has not been identified.
Robberies last week ranged from gas stations to liquor stores to grocery stores. Although guns were displayed, only one holdup has turned violent. On Jan. 3, the 70-year-old owner of Middle Eastern Deli and Grocery, 301 Eve St., was assaulted during a robbery. He told police he was repeatedly hit with a glass bottle in the face and head after he bit the gunman’s hand, causing him to drop his gun. The owner was taken to a hospital.
The suspects in that case have been captured, but many of the cases remain unsolved with only surveillance camera footage of the robbers.
Rollins said investigators are talking to suspects and believe some of the cases are connected. Although he could not discuss the details, he said the sheriff’s office is evaluating the trend and taking steps to address the issue.
Anyone with information on any of the cases can contact the sheriff’s office at (706) 821-1020 or 821-1080.