Mob robbers hit convenience stores in St. Paul

1:26 PM, Feb 24, 2011   |    comments
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  • Police investigate mob robbery in St. Paul
  • Police investigate mob robbery in St. Paul

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- Les Johnson runs what could be one of the busiest convenience stores in the west metro.

"It gets pretty hectic," says Les.

With so many people coming and going, Les and his employees are vigilant. Any item stolen is a loss.

"If someone is in the store for a long time, they're usually up to no good. It's a convenience store...people want to get in and get out as fast as they can," says Les.

But what do you do when a crowd comes in all at once? And it's not just any crowd, but a crowd with a plan to rob the place.

On Saturday, St. Paul police say 50 kids swarmed a Holiday store on Wabasha, a so-called mob theft or mob robbery. They stormed in together, their numbers overwhelming and just started stealing.

"They steal your basic convenience store type of goods and run out," says St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Andy Skoogman.

It's the second incident like it in St. Paul in less than six months. Last fall, surveillance cameras at a BP station on Lexington captured some 20 kids coming into the store at the same time. They stole merchandise and one of them assaulted the clerk on the way out.

Police worry about this kind of mob behavior because there have been similar incidents in other cities.

As for the incident at the Wabasha Holiday, investigators say surveillance images will help them identify mob members. They cited at least 20 of them for curfew violations that night, but more serious charges are possible with the kind of mob mentality police say could get even more dangerous for both workers and customers.

"The inclination might be to try to stop it. We don't want people to do that. We want store employees to be witnesses to shoplifting, not victims of assault," says Skoogman.

The mob robbery at the Holiday store happened just before a shooting incident down the street where two people were injured. St. Paul police are looking into whether the two cases are connected.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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