Businesses brace for more criminal activity
A string of robberies along North Pacific Highway has many business owners wondering who will be next.
Each of the robberies happened on a Friday when local check cashing outlets, restaurants and markets are likely to have the most cash on hand.
The most recently-reported robbery happened Sept. 6 at Guacamole Market, when an armed man took about $1,800 cash from the register.
Fear of the robber coming back has prompted the owner to beef up her security, including eight new cameras, and shorten hours of operation.
We are scared in our minds, said Victoria Rodriguez, owner of the market for the last three years. I dont know what will happen.
On Aug. 30, a masked gunman walked into Taqueria Los Laureles and went straight for the register, which had roughly $2,000 cash from a busy Friday, said Yessica Martinez, a cashier at the restaurant.
Last week, a man was caught on videotape stealing video cameras from the restaurant. Woodburn police caught the man and said he was not a suspect in the robberies.
We are not really safe anymore, Martinez said. We think he may come back again.
On July 19, an armed man held up Casa Mexico, lining up witnesses before he stole $3,496 and fled on foot. Police described the suspect as a light-skinned Hispanic male with a medium or stocky build.
Woodburn Police Department is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in each of the cases, said Scott Russell, chief of police.
There may be a connection between at least two of the robberies, but investigators still lack evidence they need to make that final conclusion, Russell said.
Russell is advising businesses to keep less cash on hand and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
The biggest deterrent is having a drop box just like 7-Eleven, he said. 7-Eleven doesnt get robbed. You have got to take away the incentive for folks to get robbed.
Chief Russell pointed Woodburn residents to the website, crimereports.com, to get information on where criminal activity has been occurring.
An adjacent business to Casa Mexico, Tienda Mexicana, has largely avoided being robbed due to visible security measures, an alarm system and a close connection with his customer base, said Ezequiel Escobedo Lopez, general manager and owner.
His business, a combined grocery, bakery and restaurant, still has been targeted with gang graffiti and one attempted break-in.
Escobedo Lopez would like to see more police presence at night and better lighting around the North Pacific Plaza where his business is located.
The cameras have helped us a lot, he said with his daughter acting as an interpreter. Our customers know us well. We always have three people closing. There is never a woman left alone at night.
Escobedo Lopez said he checks his smartphone regularly for live streamed video footage of the store when he is away, and he makes sure there is not a lot of cash on hand in the register.