A robbery task force has been formed by Centre Region police agencies in response to a string of seven armed robberies occurring in the area in the past 10 days, Patton Township Police Sgt. Frank Monroe said last night.
The task force includes detectives and officers from Patton Township, Ferguson Township, Penn State University Police and State College police, Monroe said. The purpose of the task force is to pool the resources and talent of officers from across the region to help determine if the robberies are connected, he added.
"State College is pretty much four different municipalities," Monroe said. "When these crimes happen, they cross borders."
He added that these crimes have created the need for the municipalities to join together.
"There's a good possibility we're dealing with the same criminal in each of these cases," he said.
The seventh armed robbery occurred at 10:16 p.m. Monday when a white man, armed with a black handgun, entered a Snappy's convenience store, located at the intersection of state Routes 390 and 220 in Snyder Township, according to a Hollidaysburg State Police Department press release.
The man took an undisclosed amount of cash from two registers in Snappy's before running around the back of the store and up Route 350, according to the release.
Witnesses described the man as about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 160 pounds and wearing black shoes, black pants, a black shirt, black gloves, a black bandana on his face and a red bandana over his head, police said. The release further stated that he had dirty blonde hair and possibly brown eyes.
According to the press release, a dark red vehicle, possibly a Chevrolet or a Ford Escort, was seen driving at a high speed going south on Route 390 immediately after the robbery.
Jeremiah Bowers, a clerk from the Choice convenience store, 2110 N. Atherton St., which was robbed on July 22, said the store is now taking extra precautions in the event that another robbery occurs.
"We're not leaving as much money in the drawer anymore," he said.
Other convenience stores are being cautious as well, should an armed robber victimize their store.
Dave Canizzi, a clerk at Uni-Mart, 200 E. College Ave., said store personnel is aware of the recent robberies.
"We've been told to keep our drawers low," he said.
However, Canizzi added that his Uni-Mart isn't too worried about a robbery occurring.
"We're right in the heart of downtown," he said. "There's cops and stores everywhere around us."
Tanya Parkes, an employee at Snappy's, 535 University Drive, said employees there are being attentive and careful.
"We're putting two more people on at night," she added.
Parkes said the store is also keeping less cash in the registers and dropping off money every 10 minutes.
"If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen," she said. "There's nothing we can do about it."
Six other robberies occurred in the Centre Region since July 22. In each robbery, the descriptions of the robber have been similar. Details of the incidents are as follows:
Choice convenience store, 2110 N. Atherton St.: A man entered the store at about 10 p.m. July 22, brandishing a handgun and taking off with an undisclosed amount of money. Witnesses described the robber as a white man in his 30s between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall, with a bandana over his face, police said.
Papa John's Pizza, 2110 N. Atherton St.: Police said a man with dark hair, wearing a black T-shirt, black jeans and a bandana over his face and head entered with a semi-automatic pistol and made off with an undisclosed amount of money at about 9:40 p.m. July 25.
Domino's Pizza, 1100 N. Atherton St.: A man came to the shop at 10:24 p.m. Friday with a black semi-automatic handgun and demanded cash, police said. Witnesses said the man wore a black shirt, black pants and two bandanas.
Mini Mart, 11622 Bank St., in Shade Gap: Police said a man, armed with a black pistol, took $400 from the register at 5:15 a.m. Saturday and fled by vehicle. Witnesses described him as between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing about 200 to 250 pounds. Additionally, police reported that he wore a black ski mask, black gloves, black jeans and a black-and-white flannel shirt.
Uni-Mart, 3180 W. College Ave.: A man wearing all black and a black ski mask with red trim held up the store with a semi-automatic handgun and fled with an undisclosed amount of money at 1:13 a.m. Sunday, police said. Witnesses describe the man as having a slim build between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall.
Uni-Mart, 3700 Warriors Mark Path, in Warriors Mark: A man with a handgun ordered the cashier to the register and demanded all of the money in the drawer at 12:23 p.m. Sunday, police said. Police were told that the man was between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall, wearing black shoes, jeans, a dark sweatshirt and gloves.