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Victims, businesses changed in aftermath of violent incidents

July 15, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN-Papa John's Pizza won't send its delivery drivers to Hagerstown's higher crime areas after dark because its oldest driver was robbed twice this year while delivering pizza.

A 17-year-old Big Dipper employee said she has been afraid to do anything by herself after a robber cornered her in the Hagerstown ice cream store where she worked in May.

Oak Ridge Liquors has installed video cameras, posted a large security sign and made it a policy to keep less money in the cash register after the Halfway-area store was robbed in February.

No matter where the robbery, area victims interviewed for this story agreed their brief experiences with robbers continue to affect the way they conduct themselves and their businesses.

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"It's been terrible really. Our drivers are out there trying to make a living," said Donna Ferruzza, the assistant manager at the Papa John's Pizza in Hagerstown.

Ferruzza said the business has changed many of its policies in Hagerstown since one of its drivers, a 71-year-old man, was robbed for the second time. He was robbed once on South Potomac Street and once on Lynnhaven Drive.

Drivers are no longer sent to areas around Jonathan Street, Security Road and Noland Village after dark because they are "really bad areas, especially at nighttime," she said.

The store has received complaints about the new policy, but Ferruzza said she explains that the restaurant has to "look out for the safety of our drivers."

Should street lights be out for some reason, Ferruzza said, drivers also will not deliver to certain areas as a safety precaution.

Drivers also don't carry as much cash on them as they once did, and the Cleveland Avenue store, which has a security camera system, is locked during business hours after darkness falls to protect its employees, she said.

The 17-year-old girl who was robbed at Big Dipper said she was still paralyzed with fear about a month after a man entered the Virginia Avenue ice cream store at about 12:45 p.m. on a day in May, asked for an application for employment and proceeded to corner her and threaten her while the two were alone in the store, said the girl, who did not want to be identified by name.

"I won't even go into my house by myself. I will not do anything by myself. Everybody's telling me to get over it," the girl said.

"I get scared when people walk in, if it's just one person," she said.

Since the incident, Big Dipper Owner Selina Grogg said she makes sure always to schedule at least two people to work on a given shift.

The 17-year-old clerk was not working alone when the store was robbed. Former owner Wayne Eury was working with her, but was outside at the store's trash bin when the robber walked in.

In the 17 years he owned the ice cream store, Eury said, the May robbery was the first for the store.

An armed robbery at Oak Ridge Liquors on Feb. 20 was that store's first robbery under Davy Ly's ownership, she said.

Shortly after the robbery, Ly said she had a video surveillance system installed. A large tin sign hangs on the front door that reads: "Security Notice: Video cameras in use on this premises."

She said she has more people on staff in the store at any given time. On a recent afternoon, at least three employees were working in the Oak Ridge Drive business.

Robbers strike at individuals as well as at businesses.

Milton Garber was attacked by a robber who knocked him to the ground and robbed him of $3,000 in the Wal-Mart parking lot at the Centre at Hagerstown on March 2.

The 80-year-old Garber said he had just tried to wire the money from Wal-Mart to a man he believed to be his grandson, who told Garber's wife he was stranded in Canada.

The man, who was not his grandson, instructed Garber to go to a Wal-Mart and wire him $3,000 to spring him from an Ontario jail.

Garber said he was not sure whether the man on the phone was connected with the man who robbed him in the parking lot. No arrests have been made in the March 2 incident.

Garber said he believes the man who robbed him was a man who stood near him at the Wal-Mart customer service counter and watched the clerk count the money.

Garber left the store without wiring the money.

"I noticed this fellow coming up about two lanes of cars in front of me. He came up to me and said, 'Can you find your car?'" Garber recalled.

"He walked alongside me and we got right in between two rows of cars. He grabbed me by the neck, put his knee right into my chest, got my two checkbooks and $3,000," he said.

Garber said he hooked the robber's foot with his leg and tripped him, but ultimately lost sight of him.

"I just never suspected anything like that would happen," he said.

Garber said the incident has made him much more guarded.

"I would advise people to be very alert, even in the daytime, when they're walking in the parking lot," he said.

Wayne Hamilton, owner and operator of Liberty gas stations on Jefferson Boulevard and West Washington Street, said he has tried to safeguard against robberies as much as possible.

Wayne's Country Store, at his West Washington Street gas station, has been robbed about 10 times since he took over ownership in 1991, he said.

"We've taken measures to reduce the risk ... You can't think like a robber. If you thought like a robber, you'd be ahead of the game a little bit," he said.

Hamilton said he hopes added security will make his employees feel safer at work. Some employees have quit after being robbed, and Hamilton said good employees are hard to find.

"That always has an effect on whoever is working. I've lost employees in the past because of it (a robbery)," Hamilton said. "It just takes a psychological effect on them, and I can't blame them."

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