Sunday, September 02, 2001

Video store thefts stump cops

Many robbers are armed, but no serious injuries

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        A seemingly unlikely target has again drawn the attention of robbers: local video stores.

        Police across Hamilton County are stumped by a fresh outbreak of bold armed robberies at the stores in the last two weeks.

        Since mid-August, four stores have been robbed:two in Western Hills, one in Roselawn and one in Green Township.

        Nobody has been seriously hurt in any of the robberies.

        The recent outbreak follows a rash of similar heists earlier this year, police said.

        “We seem to have more in the past six months than we've had prior to that time,” Hamilton County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Barnett said. “I don't know that there is any reason for it.”

        One of the latest robberies occurred just after midnight Aug. 27 at the Hollywood Video store on Anderson Ferry Road. In that theft, a man armed with a small handgun approached a store employee who was retrieving tapes from an outside drop box. He forced her back inside, and made her and another employee open the safe and register.

        The store had just closed.

        The employee who was approached by the robber was reluctant to talk Wednesday without going through the corporate office. Hollywood Video's corporate office did not return a phone call.

        “In most of them, they (robbers) have been armed,” Mr. Barnett said. “They're no easier (targets for thieves) than they've ever been.”

        Police don't know if the recent outbreak is connected to a robbery ring of several months ago. Five arrests were made.

        “We're not sure that that ring is linked to a new spree yet, and we won't know until we catch them,” said Cincinnati Police Spec. Roger Robbins of the department's special investigations unit.

        He would not go into detail about what might draw robbers' attention to the stores.

        “It's a new target and ... it's a business that's open late,” Spec. Robbins said. “Before that there were isolated video store robberies.”

        Video stores are teaming up with police to make the businesses less vulnerable. Blockbuster Video is hiring off-duty police officers to provide security for their stores, Spec. Robbins said.

        “Our number one goal is to stop and eliminate the robberies from happening, and second to catch and arrest the perpetrators,” he said. “They're bold at what they're doing because they haven't been confronted by law enforcement yet. The odds are not in their favor.”


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