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Robberies on rise this time of year

December 18, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Nancy Scott tries to do all of her shopping during the day.

Her daughter holds her packages and purse close to her as she walks.

'Tis the season to take some extra precautions, police and shoppers say.

"Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that's armed robbery season every year," Washington County Sheriff's Department Lt. Tim Baker said Sunday.

With seven shopping days left before Christmas, Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Mark Renner advised customers to watch their surroundings and tuck packages in their trunks, where would-be robbers cannot see. If confronted by a robber, store clerks should comply, then call police, he said.

The area has experienced a rash of armed robberies recently.

On Thursday, three men held up a St. Thomas Township, Pa., gas station, and a man robbed the Paramount branch of Susquehanna Bank on Marsh Pike.

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On Wednesday, a man wearing a wide belt of ammunition displayed a long-barreled gun and robbed a liquor store in Hancock. Three robberies, including a home invasion in the 400 block of Mitchell Avenue, took place that day in Hagerstown.

The number of robberies typically increases in December, Renner said.

"The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings when you're leaving these stores and you're in these parking lots at night ... or even during the day," Renner said.

Scott, 63, and her daughter, Sandy Richardson, 42, both of Waynesboro, Pa., said they try to watch out for their belongings as they are negotiating the crowds.

"I don't go by myself, that's for sure. I'm always with somebody," said Scott, who sat with Richardson on a bench Sunday at Prime Outlets. "I'd sooner shop during the day, there's just too much crime."

Richardson said she is especially mindful of her purse, a brown cloth bag that does not properly close. She described herself as "paranoid."

Andrea Scotton of Silver Spring, Md., said she carries her purse under her coat, "so it doesn't get snatched."

Renner said he thinks some of the crime is motivated by the Christmas season itself.

"Around December, it seems armed robberies do increase because people need the money," Renner said. "I can't say for sure, but I think it's the pressure to get gifts for Christmas."

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