Eight robberies have occurred on Highway 99E in the past six months, and they dont appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Dominos Pizza, CashCo Financial Services (twice), Budget Inn Motel, Crossroads Grocery & Deli, End Zone Restaurant, Guacamole Market and Taqueria Los Laureles have all been hit. However, the reasoning for this specific area of Woodburn being targeted remains a mystery to many.
Woodburn is a fairly safe community, said Woodburn Police Capt. Jason Alexander. Weve had some incident recently where there were some armed robberies in a short period of time. We understand that, we recognize that. We need the publics help quite a bit and we need other eyes out there as well to be calling the police when they see things that dont seem right in their area.
According to Alexander, no connections between cases have been found and each robbery has a potential suspect except for the latest Dominos robbery, which was on Feb 3.
Richard Young, 53, was arrested on Nov. 27, 2013 and received a 90-month sentence for the Nov. 1 robbery at Crossroads Grocery & Deli.
WPD determined a suspect for the two CashCo robberies about one week ago, however Alexander said no arrest has been made.
Michael Rosenberg, owner and founder of CashCo Financial Services, mentioned hes been in touch with the Woodburn Police Department and said the same suspect described in the first robbery appeared the second time as well.
The police feel that they have some good information about who the person is, said Rosenberg. Weve been led to believe that its possible that the person who is responsible is currently in jail and has been arrested for other crimes, so were just waiting for confirmation of that from them (WPD).
CashCo installed surveillance cameras after the second robbery occurred and also hired a security guard to patrol the area for employees peace of mind.
We got the security guard more to provide a sense of security and protection for the gals working at the office, at least when they transition back to work, Rosenberg said. Theyve been severely traumatized by the event. Weve been in business for 25 years throughout the state of Oregon, and weve never had anything even remotely like this happen.
Rosenberg is in the process of developing a training module that will implement ways to respond to specific situations including robberies.
Alexander mentioned WPD has actively patrolled visible areas along Highway 99E and has no plan to have a community outreach program or task force regarding the common crimes on the main strip.
As far as anyones safety, we live in an un-sensitized world and a person needs to be aware of that, said Rosenberg. I dont think we can succumb to fear and to feelings of apprehension and mistrust of our fellow human beings because of one person who decided to commit a crime.
Rosenberg said he feels safe in Woodburn and hopes others feel the same.
All I know is what I see in our CashCo office in Woodburn, he said. I love to visit that office, I love those customers and I love that community. I dont assume to believe that a couple robberies somehow define what the Woodburn community is. I think its a wonderful community.
Justin Stearns, Rosenbergs neighboring State Farm Insurance agent, mentioned State Farm Insurance has very good security and is thankful for what the business has.
I think that were in a tough economic time, and were just a visible area because were on the corner, so people see the area, said Stearns.
Stearns advises businesses to install an alarm system that will call WPD at the time of the incident.
If its a loud alarm, they wont want to be in the room when its going off, he said.
Although crime traffic has taken over Highway 99E recently, neighboring Carls Jr. manager Lucia Guadarrama and office manager Susana Fuentes of Beardall Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic havent heard a peep about any of the Highway 99E robberies.
Alexander recommends businesses install any type of surveillance equipment they can provide to benefit WPD with useful information involving searching for potential suspects.
He said people commit robberies for various reasons and doesnt believe the cases are gang related.
Theyre obviously an easy target for a robbery suspect simply because theyre generally open late hours, at all hours and theyre on major road ways so it makes getaway easier, Alexander said. I think its the type of business, a convenient type store, is what makes it appealing to rob. Its a criminal opportunity. Theyre able to pick their location and then go and commit the crime.
Larry Jolly, Arctic Circle owner of 25 years, has given his crew members advice on what to do if a similar instance would occur.
I hate to see this stuff, said Jolly. It sure isnt worth losing a life.
Although all of the recent robberies have taken place during open hours, other Highway 99E businesses are also getting hit when closed.
The Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, on Young Street not far from the highway, was broken into Thursday night, according to WPD. Attorney Albino Velas law office was also broken into Thursday around 5 a.m., when the suspect threw a rock through the main entrance window door and stole Velas business laptop.
Its really dark on 99, Vela said. If you drive down it you can see people, but you cant see what theyre carrying.
Vela described the suspect as a male with a yellow hoodie over his head and normal height and weight.