Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is urging local businesses to be vigilant, saying the county has experienced an uptick in armed robberies.
The robbers have not been selective when it comes to the types of businesses hit, according to a sheriff’s department news release. They have struck at businesses ranging from banks to nightclubs to clothing stores.
As of Oct. 31, the county has seen 91 commercial robberies, the sheriff’s department reported. That is 10 more robberies than what was reported in all of 2011.
Of the 91 robberies this year, 75 have been typical stickups, in which a robber shows a weapon and demands money. The other 16 were cases of till-tapping, when the robber reaches over a counter and grabs cash from the register, according to statistics provided by the sheriff’s department.
A bulk of the robberies have been committed by the same group of people, Lott said.
Police in Augusta arrested three people Wednesday for an armed robbery, and Lott said those men are suspects in more than 30 robberies in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties.
“We’ve got a small number of people doing a lot of robberies,” he said. “We see these guys get on a streak and they don’t stop until we catch them.”
Lott said his best advice for robbery victims is to cooperate with the robber’s demands and observe his appearance and actions.
“Don’t be so focused on the gun,” Lott said. “Try to watch the person.”
The sheriff encouraged businesses to take a proactive approach:
• Request free armed-robbery safety training from the department.
• Request a free security analysis.
• Train employees on what to do before, during and after a robbery occurs.
• Join a neighborhood crime watch.
• Increase lighting.
• Decrease landscaping.
The department’s community action team can help with training. To reach it, call (803) 576-3191.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.