Police try new strategies to prevent robberies during holidays

by: Jeff Smith Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

With the number of robberies on the rise in Charlotte, police are trying out new strategies this week to keep people safe as they get ready for holiday shopping.

Two men robbed at least four people at gunpoint earlier this month after following them home near University City. Police think the same thing could happen again this week because so many people are visiting ATMs and check-cashing stores.

Check-cashing  businesses were slammed Tuesday evening. Many customers were getting cash for the Thanksgiving trip home, while others were getting money for holiday shopping.

Alicia Patterson knows it's a good time for robbers to strike, and that's why she came with a friend to cash her check.

"That's a major concern. That's why I'm with somebody tonight. I wouldn't come by myself," she said.

North Charlotte police are still trying to identify the men caught on surveillance video who robbed several people. In East Charlotte, police are afraid the same thing could happen.

"Especially with Black Friday coming up, and people usually save up just to shop for Black Friday. So yeah, they probably have a ton of money on them now," Patterson said.

East Charlotte's Hickory Grove division put a "Holiday Action Plan" in place. As part of that crime-fighting strategy, there will be plainclothes officers standing in line at check -cashing places, while unmarked cars sit in high-crime parking lots.

"It's good to get eyes out there. Where people don't know who we are, so we can observe what's happening in the bigger picture," said Lt. Eric Brady of the Hickory Grove Division.

Two years ago, there was one strong-armed robbery in Hickory Grove during the holidays. Last year, there were seven.

"It seems to be that the suspects are focusing on people going into check -cashing places or ATMs, so we put our people in those areas this year," Brady said.

Police aren't saying which stores they'll be watching, so the crooks won't know. But it's giving customers like Patterson peace of mind.

"Especially with the economy the way it is, I think it's a good idea for them to go undercover," she said.

Brady said another part of the Holiday Action Plan is having officers in sky towers above shopping centers, and having officers visit grocery stores and retailers to provide safety tips and contact numbers.