Suffolk police on Wednesday released surveillance images of a woman suspected of committing six knife-point robberies in the last month, with the hope that tips from the public might lead to an arrest.
The suspect, who Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini called “dangerous” noting her use of a pocketknife, has attempted to change her appearance using Halloween-style makeup. She hit up the businesses near closing time when a single employee was working, Sini said, and typically attempted to buy an item before demanding cash after an employee opened the register.
Investigators have not definitively identified a motive in the heists, but said drug addiction is often a driver in pattern robbery cases.
Two recent knife-point robbery patterns on Long Island ended when cops arrested suspects they identified as drug addicts. One of the patterns was a 10-week spree in Nassau and Suffolk that ended in May and included 18 robberies or attempted robberies of ice cream shops and other stores.
In the latest case, police said the suspect brandished a knife and demanded money about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday at a Dollar Tree store on Horseblock Road, grabbing cash out of the drawer when an employee opened the register.
The robbery follows holdups at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Medford Avenue in North Patchogue at about 8:30 p.m. Monday; a Carvel store on Horseblock Road in Farmingville about 10 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Saturday; a Family Dollar store on Portion Road in Lake Ronkonkoma at 10 p.m. on Sept. 29, and a Family Dollar store on Horseblock Road in Farmingville at 9:50 p.m. on Sept. 23.
The suspect wore face paint both times when she robbed Carvel, said Deborah Davidson, the store’s operations manager. The first night, the woman’s face was painted black and white, and the second night, she had white streaks, according to Davidson, who said she viewed a store surveillance tape of the holdups.
The robber ordered ice cream, the Carvel manager said, and when an employee opened the register, she demanded cash.
“Once the register was opened,” Davidson said, “she took out her knife and said ‘Give me the [expletive] money.’ ”
Davidson said trauma from being face-to-face with the knife-wielding robber led her employee, 16, to quit.
“Her first job . . . She was just devastated,” Davidson said.
The manager at the Family Dollar store in Ronkonkoma declined to comment and the manager in Farmingville did not return calls.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Sini declined to say what tactics police were using to catch the suspect, including whether the department was stepping up patrols.
Before police arrested a homeless man May 2 in connection with the 10-week robbery spree, Nassau and Suffolk police increased patrols near businesses like the ones held up.
Police also advised business owners to keep their stores well-lit and remove signage from windows to give officers a clear view inside.
The suspect in the 18 holdups, Shane Cashmore, had a court appearance Wednesday in Suffolk criminal court and remains in custody with bail of $2 million bond or $1 million cash. He faces multiple felony counts of first-degree robbery.
Detectives ask anyone with information in the latest robberies to call 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477.
Knifepoint robbery timeline
- Sept. 23, 9:55 p.m. at Family Dollar, 349 Horseblock Road, Farmingville
- Sept. 29, 9:59 p.m. at Family Dollar, 222 Portion Road, Ronkonoma
- Oct. 13, 9:55 p.m. at Carvel, 400 Hoseblock Road, Farmingville
- Oct. 14, 10:01 p.m. at Carvel, 400 Horseblock Road, Farmingville
- Oct. 16, 8:33 p.m. at Dunkin’ Donuts, 500-11 Medford Avenue, Patchogue
- Oct. 17, 9:43 p.m. at Dollar Tree, 3235 Horseblock Road, Medford