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Long IslandCrime

Knifepoint robber strikes GameStop in Merrick, Cops say

On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the Barn convenience store on Belmont Avenue in West Babylon was robbed at knifepoint, and an electronics shop in Merrick was robbed hours later. On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, Suffolk County police held a news conference to discuss the rash of knifepoint and machete robberies. Police in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, who are working the case together, say they have scores of patrol cops on the lookout and undercover police stationed near likely targets. (Credit: News 12 Long Island) (Photo Credit: James Carbone, Howard Schnapp, Christoper Sabella)

Long Island’s serial knife point robber is getting more brazen, hitting a West Babylon convenience store in broad daylight Tuesday and an electronics shop in Merrick hours later in what experts say is an attempt to throw cops off his trail by changing his behavior.

The suspect, who has consistently covered his face, making it difficult for cops to create a sketch, has struck a dozen businesses in Nassau and Suffolk since mid-February — even as cops have intensified patrols and harnessed technology to crack the case.

The two latest robberies came on Tuesday, with an afternoon holdup at the Barn convenience store in West Babylon and an evening hit of a GameStop in Merrick, both of which broke the mold for the robber — until then, he had only struck under the cover of darkness, targeting Carvel ice cream stores, Subway sandwich shops and Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

No one has been injured in any of the heists, during which the robber has brandished a machete or large kitchen knife. Cops won’t say how much money he’s stolen in the four Suffolk robberies and the seven Nassau robberies. He also made an attempt at an eighth robbery in Nassau, police said.

“I think he knows the cops are going to surveil the areas so he’s going to new places, but still places he knows are going to carry a lot of cash,” said Joseph Giacalone, a former NYPD detective and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan who follows Long Island crime.

Police in both counties, who are working the case in concert, say they’ve ratcheted up the pressure, with scores of patrol cops on the lookout and undercovers stationed near likely targets.

Investigators also have scoured surveillance video not only from inside the businesses, but also from the neighborhoods where the heists have occurred — including red light cameras and license plate readers, hoping to link a vehicle to the robber.

Nassau and Suffolk police were tight-lipped Wednesday on what inroads they’ve made in the investigation.

Nassau Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun declined an interview request, but issued a statement saying the department had devoted a “significant amount of resources to this Robbery Pattern investigation and has made this one of our top priorities.”

Suffolk Det. Sgt. James Madden of the Major Case Unit said his department doesn’t have a description of the suspect’s vehicle, but believes he’s either driving or being transported by car because of the long distances between the robberies.

In the West Babylon heist, which occurred at about 1:50 p.m., the suspect wore “bulky, heavy winter clothing,” including a coat, hat and hood, and gloves — odd apparel for Tuesday’s very warm, springlike temperatures, Madden said.

Despite this case, department statistics show commercial robberies in Nassau are down 34.9 percent this year through April 11 — from 63 during that period last year to 41 this year.

Suffolk police clocked 42 commercial robberies this year through April 11 — down 19.2 percent from the 52 recorded in the same time in 2016, according to department statistics.

Manish Kumar, manager of the Subway in Westbury that was robbed Saturday night, said while police still haven’t made an arrest, he’s satisfied they are working diligently to catch the perpetrator.

“I cannot blame police on that,” Kumar said. “It’s such a big area. They can’t cover every place. They’re trying.”

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