The hold-up of yet another business in Peoria on Monday night has some working in retail wondering if the crime spree will soon come to an end.
The armed robbery to Big Lots, 3013 N. Sterling Ave., about 8:20 p.m. by a man with a knife is the latest in a wave of heists plaguing the city.
No injuries were reported, though the robber poked an employee in the back with the knife until the cash register was emptied.
From bakeries and bars to video and convenience stores, it seems no business is safe. In January, there were 22 armed robberies, two to four a day in some instances.
“I don’t know what is going on. It seems like every day there’s another one. It’s crazy,” said a manager at of one of the two Butternut Bread thrift stores in Peoria. “You work in retail and you always have a chance of getting robbed. Police need to do something.”
Police have beefed up patrols but with so many robberies and very few leads, it’s difficult to know if one or more people or groups are responsible.
“It could be the same two people every time,” Peoria police spokesman Doug Burgess said. “But until we can pin it down, we’re not going to know for sure.”
Police thought they had put a stop to the robberies with the arrests of two teens last week after a botched purse snatching outside the Circle K gas station on Knoxville Avenue. One of the alleged robbers, Christopher Young, 18, of Peoria was arrested a second time over the weekend for the Jan. 10 armed robbery of two patrons of the Elbo Room, 631 W. Main St.
But even with those arrests, the robberies continue to occur.
“They’re hitting whoever,” said the Butternut manager, not wanting to give her name. “It’s a nervous situation.”
Because their stores have been held up three times since Dec. 29, bakery management has allowed the thrift stores to close an hour earlier, at 5 p.m. The businesses also are installing an upgraded security system.
“Hopefully that will help,” said the manager. “We don’t know what else to do to stay safe.”
Peoria is not alone in struggling to solve the cases.
Three of the robberies have occurred just outside city limits in Peoria County. In less than a week, Family Video, 3218 W. Harman Highway, was robbed twice, along with the U.S. Cellular store across the street.
“We are in communication with Peoria, comparing notes and working together to resolve this string of robberies,” said Peoria County Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Briggs. “We know from descriptions it’s not always the same people.”
Police have described the robbers as black men in their mid-teens to mid-20s. They range in height from 5 feet, 4 inches tall to 6 feet, 1 inch tall with medium builds. They wear dark clothing, gloves and sometimes black ski masks.
Some of the robberies may be linked because of the mannerisms of the suspects, but police have declined to elaborate on the suspects’ behavior because of the ongoing investigation.
Anyone with information about the robbers or armed robberies can call CrimeStoppers anonymously at 673-9000 or the Peoria Police Department at 673-4521.
Two armed men robbed the Family Video store at 3615 Wisconsin Ave. on Thursday, making the store the second in the chain to be robbed this week.
Police said the men entered the store around 10 p.m., when there were two employees and one customer in the store.
Police said both suspects were black. One was described as about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds. He held one silver pistol in his hand. The other was about 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds. He held a silver pistol in each hand. Witnesses told police the guns looked fake.
The shorter suspect took an undisclosed amount of money from three cash drawers, while the other pointed his weapons at the people in the store.
The robbers then fled out the store and into an alley.
Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, two masked gunmen robbed the Family Video at 218 W. Harman Highway, across the street from Madison Park Shopping Center.
One ordered two customers and an employee to face a wall of videos, while the second screamed at another employee to empty the cash register of an undisclosed amount of money.
The gunmen then fled in a late 1990s blue Dodge Neon or Plymouth model, police said.
Three days earlier, a man robbed the U.S. Cellular store, 3211 W. Harman Highway, of $400 after threatening the clerk at closing time. No weapon was displayed.
Police said they do not yet know if the cases are connected. No arrests have been made.