A Bohemia ice cream shop appears to have been the latest target in a pattern of 16 knifepoint robberies across Nassau and Suffolk counties since February, police officials said Thursday.
In the latest incident, which occurred about 8:55 p.m. Wednesday at a Baskin-Robbins on Sunrise Highway, a man with a knife walked in and demanded cash from an employee, police said. He fled after receiving it, according to police.
Suffolk police issued a statement saying the robbery “appears to be linked to five other robberies in Suffolk County and multiple robberies in Nassau County.”
The manager of the store said Thursday morning that two high school students had been working in the ice cream shop when the robber came in.
“The best part is the kids are safe. Nobody was hurt,” said the manager, who would only give his first name, Ben. “They handled the situation very well.”
But, the manager added, “I hope he gets caught.”
Neighbors and customers said they were shocked and dismayed by the robbery.
The holdup was “disgusting,” said Annette DeGuardia, 65, who lives nearby and said she’s been a longtime customer of the store. “A lot of this stuff has been going on around here, and it’s horrible.”
Peter Patel, who owns a card shop in the same strip mall as the Baskin-Robbins, said, “It’s shocking for us. I feel a little scared.”
He said there has been no crime he knows of in the strip mall in the 11 years he’s owned his store. But after the robbery, he said he decided that none of his workers will be on duty in the store alone anymore.
Since mid-February, the robber is suspected of hitting 16 stores — 10 in Nassau and six in Suffolk, mainly chain ice cream shops and sandwich stores, according to police. Two of those were attempted robberies. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.
Corporate spokesmen for Subway, Carvel and Dunkin Brands, which also owns Baskin-Robbins, had no comment Thursday.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini on Thursday said the department has launched a special team of investigators to focus exclusively on the robberies and the suspect.
“It’s frustrating that he’s not in custody and that’s clear. We’re going to be doing everything we can to catch him and bring him to justice so these robberies can stop,” Sini said after an unrelated meeting in Hauppauge on Thursday.
The unknown robber spends about two minutes inside the store during each robbery, a small duration of time that has complicated the case for investigators.
“He’s in and out quick,” Sini said. “That’s one of the obstacles of catching him in the act. These happen extremely quickly.”
Sini, who added that Suffolk cops in special patrols are being deployed to businesses in hopes of catching the robber, advised store owners to make sure their surveillance video systems are up to date.
“Oftentimes we get video surveillance from commercial establishments and the resolution is so poor it’s not helpful,” Sini said. “This isn’t CSI where we can press a button and automatically the footage becomes perfectly clear.”
Nassau County acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter issued a statement Thursday saying his department is committed to solving the case, and urged residents to call 911 if “they see anything suspicious or feel threatened in any way.”
“The Nassau County Police Department has dedicated significant resources to the investigation of this knife point robbery pattern subject,” Krumpter said in a statement. “While Nassau County is experiencing a significant decrease in commercial robberies, this recent pattern is concerning and we will not rest until the subject is apprehended.”
With Joan Gralla
The following robberies or attempted robberies are thought by police to be part of a pattern:
Feb. 13: Carvel, Copiague
Feb. 15: Dunkin’ Donuts, (attempted) Seaford
Feb. 15: Carvel, South Farmingdale
March 20: Subway, Copiague
March 21: Carvel, Bethpage
March 26: Carvel, Westbury
March 28: Subway, Carle Place
April 1: Carvel, Lake Ronkonkoma
April 4: Subway, Plainview
April 8: Subway, Westbury
April 11: The Barn, West Babylon
April 11: GameStop, Merrick
April 15: Subway (attempted) North Merrick
April 15: TCBY, Lynbrook.
April 18: Subway, Ronkonkoma
April 19: Baskin-Robbins, Bohemia