Armed robbery of stores in the western district on the rise
Businesses owned and operated by Asian people seem to be the latest target in a string of robberies — some which have been reported to police — in the western district, specifically Malaeimi, Tafuna, and Ili’ili. The robberies took place over a span of three weeks, between November 28 and December 19.
Samoa News spoke to a member of the Chinese community, who reported that as far as they know, there have been a dozen reported robberies involving a total of eight stores; and some of the stores were robbed twice. The stores are mostly 24-hour businesses, with most of the robberies occurring in the early morning hours, although not all.
No one has been hurt so far, but at least two of the robberies involved guns, while the others involved thieves holding a machete, a big knife, large rocks, sticks, etc., according to surveillance footage.
On November 30 at 2:57 a.m. a store in the Malaeimi area was robbed during business hours, and a police report was filed. Three days later, the same store was robbed a second time at 5:52 a.m. Again, a police report was filed.
Then on December 1, two stores (one in Ili’ili and another in Tafuna) were robbed – one at 1:18 a.m. and the other 18 minutes later at 1:36 a.m. The Ili’ili robbery, based on surveillance photos, was carried out by two masked culprits, one holding a machete and the other holding a stick.
According to the storeowner, the stolen items included $50 cash and a radio. However, while making their getaway, one of the thieves was hit by a bottle that was thrown by a store employee. The thief fell to the ground and damaged the stolen radio but nonetheless, they both took off without being apprehended.
Less than twenty minutes later, a robbery took place at a Tafuna store, again during business hours; and security cameras show two people taking money from the cash register. One was armed with a big knife while the other was holding a large rock.
And, on December 13, at 1:28 a.m., yet another robbery was carried out, during business hours, but this time, it involved a gun. The two masked thieves making off with the cash register box are caught on surveillance cameras — with one of the culprits seen holding a gun.
Four days later on December 17, at 10:54 a.m., a person armed with a gun entered yet another store and took off with the cash machine. An estimated $200 was stolen and surveillance cameras show that there was a driver waiting in the get-away vehicle, a Ford SUV.
MEETING OF BUSINESS OWNERS
Earlier this week, a gathering of the local Chinese business owners and operators whose establishments have been targeted revealed that while most of the incidents were reported to police, some storeowners have opted not to contact the authorities, for fear of being hit up again.
According to some business owners, investigators from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) have been responsive and are currently looking into the matter.
The Chinese community is banding together and discussions have been made as to what needs to be done in order to prevent a repeat of the robberies.
Samoa News requested to take snapshots of the video footage for publication but an agreement amongst the Chinese business owners has been reached — that none of the pictures will be released to the media.
“We agreed not to release any pictures, but just figures and information about the incidents,” said the representative who spoke to Samoa News on condition of anonymity. He said the decision was made to release the information to the media to inform the public about the robberies and the frequency at which they are occurring.
The Chinese Association has advised the business owners on preventive measures such as hiring security guards, closing early, buying insurance, not keeping cash around, etc.
Samoa News understands that a couple of the robbers have been apprehended.
It is unclear whether the robberies are all connected.
The public is urged to lock up their homes and vehicles at night, especially during this busy holiday season.
While the robberies did not result in any physical injuries or death, such is not impossible, considering that some of the robbers were armed with deadly weapons.