DeSoto Sees 91 Percent Increase in Robberies

Dallas County suburb sees big spike in crime

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    Robberies have nearly doubled in DeSoto, and police police are scrambling to find solutions.

    Robberies have nearly doubled in DeSoto, and police police are scrambling to find solutions.

    The city of about 45,000 people has seen 65 robberies so far this year, compared to 34 at the same time last year, a 91 percent increase.

    Behind the statistics are troubling scenes, such as the video of a masked gunman bursting into a DeSoto hotel and jabbing a gun at the desk clerk before running off with an armful of cash.

    The latest robbery victim was a gas station owner who found himself looking down the barrel of gun last week. 

    "Oh, man, it was very scary, (the) first time in my life I see the guns," said Paul Vino, who runs a Diamond Shamrock Station on Beltline Road. 

    Business owners aren't the only victims. The robbers have targeted individuals, too, in about a 50-50 split, according to police.

    Officers said they suspect the economy is driving the recent trend, but they're not sitting back and waiting for the economic picture to improve.

    Investigators are now analyzing all of the cases, looking for trends and patterns. They said they have already identified some angles of attack.

    Officers noticed that some of the crimes have happened at businesses where the windows are covered with advertisements. Police are now considering proposing an ordinance that would require stores to keep the windows clear.

    "You go to convenience stores, and you see their windows are plastered with signs or ads.  It just provides [the robbers] with cover to commit their acts," Capt. Ron Smith said.

    Smith said the department is also working with business owners to encourage the use of better camera systems, and the department is telling everyone to be more aware on the street. The robberies of individuals are often crimes of opportunity where the victims are easily caught off guard.

    Police have already arrested about half of the people suspected in the 2009 robberies, including one person picked up last week who may be involved in three of the crimes.

    The rise in robberies in the southern Dallas county suburb is even more surprising when compared to the current trend in the city of Dallas. Robbery in Dallas is down about 13 percent so far this year compared to the same time last year, according to Dallas police statistics.