Gritty pictures of masked, armed suspects pointing their guns at an innocent store clerk were recently posted and distributed by the Mt. Juliet Police Department.
Two armed men wearing masks and gloves burst into SaveALot in Mt. Juliet around 9 p.m. Dec. 11 and demanded the clerk give them all the money. The suspects have not been apprehended, and Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick thinks "they might be the same suspects who have committed armed robberies in Metro Nashville." Armed robbers hit metro about five times in the last two weeks.
The Mt. Juliet SaveALot armed robbery falls on the heels of a couple other blatant armed robberies in Mt. Juliet and Sunday night's after-hours $200,000 jewelry heist at Mt. Juliet Prestige Pawn and Jewelry.
According to police records, the Walgreens on Lebanon Road was the target of an armed robbery Nov. 21 during store hours with customers in the store. There's a $500 reward for information that could lead to the identity and arrest of the suspect.
Recently, the Mapco near Mt. Juliet was also hit during regular hours with an armed robbery and on March 3 armed, masked men entered the back door at the Providence area Goodwill Store, pointed guns at the staff and took an undisclosed amount of cash. One of the suspects pushed a staff member to the floor.
The suspects quickly fled the scene.
With Mt. Juliet's close proximity to the interstate, Metro Nashville and Lebanon Road as another escape route for criminals, coupled with its growing population and shopping mecca status, the city will continue to draw a criminal element, said police officials.
And while it seems there might be an armed robbery spree of sorts in Mt. Juliet lately, police officials said, to date, robberies are up just one from last year at six as of last week, compared to five in 2013, 10 in 2010 and 12 in 2006. There are still a few weeks left this calendar year and that number might rise. Hambrick noted last year there were some armed bank robberies in Mt. Juliet, which have been solved.
Still, the brazen-style type armed robberies recently have some citizens alarmed.
According to MJPD Lt. Tyler Chandler, "overall crime is down this year from last, and we had more crime in 2006."
"Think of the population growth since 2006," he said. "It is pretty amazing that crime has not shot up with our population growth, and we hope it stays that way."
Chandler said in some part the more exposure of crime in Mt. Juliet makes it seem as if there's more.
"Some people feel crime has gone up due to our efforts to be more transparent and share information with our community," he said. "With social media and our public information program, we communicate more about what goes on."
According to MJPD police records, to date, 2014 total reportable criminal offences fall at 1,120, compared to 2013 reports of 1,230. Between 2005 and to date 2014, year 2006 had the most reported crime at 1,432.
However, three armed robberies in and around Mt. Juliet in a two month period is "three too many," said Hambrick. He said he realizes citizens are alarmed and this type of crime happens more often in the holiday season.
"We are being very diligent in patrols and watching out," he said. "This is also a time when citizens can be watching as well. There's more purse snatchings and holdups of individuals this time of year."
He said on a personal level, people should be diligent about their surroundings and to "not present themselves as targets, and don't dig around for your car keys."
As far as vulnerable businesses, Hambrick said while patrols are stepped up, police can't be everywhere all the time and he's working on a campaign to educate business owners to make themselves less of a target.
"We are watching out for the criminals, and at the same time they are watching out for us," said Hambrick.
He noted suspects "case" businesses for weeks to see regular routines emerge. He said most of the armed robberies of late have been near closing time and businesses are encouraged to change cash "drop off times," and mix it up.
"We can't be routine with our approach and divulge all we are doing," he said.
However, he said many businesses have taken the step to hire private security guards during the holiday season and have excellent surveillance systems.
And while in reality armed robberies have not increased in Mt. Juliet this year, Hambrick said he realizes the incidents are highly "traumatic" to the victims caught in the situation.
"It's terrible what the criminal element out there chooses to do," he said. "We are doing everything possible to deter these crimes and are using every resource we have to bring people to justice."
Recently, the department put together printed materials to pass out to business owners with tips and protocol on how to protect their businesses. There's also a police-generated, anti-shoplifting campaign, as well as a holiday Safe Shopper program currently in progress.
"Even though the recent incidents are alarming, in the larger scheme of things our crime rate is relatively low and this has do with our partnership with the community," said Hambrick.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.