Shoppers beware: Thieves targeting dollar stores

Security experts say dollar stores are easy targets because of cash flow

DETROIT – While dollar stores may offer shoppers great deals, they're also becoming hot spots for crime in Detroit.

The Local 4 Defenders obtained hundreds of police reports revealing the large amount of violent robberies, two or three a week, taking place at dollar stores. The reports have statements from store employees recounting being tied up, hiding from masked men or having a gun pointed at them while being forced to hand over thousands in cash. In some cases, even being robbed of personal belongings or carjacked.

Why are crooks targeting dollar stores?

"It seems to be an easy target because there's a lot of them and I think there is a lot of ready cash there. Not a lot of people are using credit cards or debit cards when you're buying $5 worth of stuff," said Andy Arena, a security expert who formerly ran the FBI's Detroit office.  "There's a lot of people coming in. There's probably a lot of cash exchanging hands. They're just a viable target right now."

Gas stations used to be the big targets, but more station owners are taking action and investing in high-tech security upgrades. High-definition cameras are able to capture clear pictures of robbers so they can be recognized.

"We partner with the media and we get that out to the public and we're going to catch that guy," said Tom Berry, a retired Detroit police detective.

Berry said if anybody should find themselves in a robbery-type situation while shopping, his piece of advice is to keep calm and not fight back.

"Do not fight anybody. Do not fight back. Do not be the hero in these stores. Do everything that they tell you to do so you're able to go home to your family that night," Berry said.

Also, shoppers should be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to any details that could help a police investigation.

"We don't want you chasing after them. We don't want you following after them. But we do want you to be a good witness," Berry said. "If there's five people in the store, I don't care if all five of you call. Because why? That description of the robbers is going to be fresh in your mind when you make that 911 call."

Police are working with some of the stores to expand their security measures, such as hiring guards, installing panic buttons, new alarms and more HD cameras.