In 2013, there were 86 commercial robberies in unincorporated Cobb, the highest rate for the past three years, according to Lt. J. D. Ferrell of the Cobb Police Robbery/High Tech Crimes unit. This was an average of more than seven incidents a month.
In 2011, there were 77 cases of commercial robberies and in 2012 there was a slight dip to 69.
“The robbery crimes will trend up and down,” Cobb Chief of Police John Houser said. “The factors are hard to pin down, but the economy can certainly play a role.”
Just this week, there were four commercial robberies spanning from the Cumberland area to both west and south Cobb. The four robberies, two occurring in one night and two others Tuesday morning and evening, have yet to be solved.
Officer Mike Bowman with Cobb Police said detectives cannot speculate if any of the crimes are related, and evidence sent to the crime lab can “take a long time” to be processed.
Houser said Cobb Police has one unit specifically focused on street crime, with enforcement by officers in both marked and unmarked cars.
“But it is a tough crime to solve,” Houser said.
Armed theft at a quiet shopping center
One armed robbery that surprised many residents happened Tuesday at about 10:30 a.m. at The Avenue West Cobb, a popular outdoor shopping mall off Dallas Highway known for its upscale shops in a suburban setting.
Two men and a woman walked into the Kay Jewelers and robbed two employees at gunpoint. The suspects made off with an undisclosed amount of cash, jewelry and personal items, police said. No injuries were reported.
All three suspects fled on foot. Police searched around the area of the mall, and employees of the shopping complex said the manhunt involved helicopters.
The suspects were described by Cobb Police as two black men and one black woman, ranging in age from 20 to 40 years old.
On Thursday afternoon, police released security camera footage from the Kay Jewelers store, which shows the suspects looking at items in the display cases.
“Within moments of doing so, the two men drew handguns and began tying up the two female employees,” Pierce said.
The video footage has been posted on the Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta website, under unsolved crimes.
Robbery shocks west Cobb neighbors
The Kay Jewelers store sits in a prominent position in the center of the complex, near the entrance with signage visible to the highway.
Many shoppers and employees speculated Thursday afternoon that Kay Jewelers was targeted, like many other fine jewelry stores throughout the metro Atlanta area in the last six months.
Employees of Brighton Collectibles, which carries designer purses and accessories just a few shops down from Kay Jewelers, said since moving in to the complex three years ago, this is the first time there has been a robbery.
John Thatch has lived in Cobb for more than 45 years and recently retired from a career in sales at a tire wholesale retail business in Atlanta.
Thatch, who lives off Hurt Road near Austell Road, said his family often shops at The Avenue, including the Kay Jeweler store.
“That is such a great neighborhood for people to live in and their children to grow up in,” Thatch said.
Thatch said the rise in commercial robberies could be linked to an influx of people moving into Cobb from Atlanta and other counties.
“We don’t like crime in Cobb County,” Thatch said.
But, Thatch said the recent crime outbreak will not force him to move away from Cobb. Instead, he will pay attention to the crime report details to help local law enforcement apprehend the suspects.
“You want to always know what goes around your area, to keep alert about it,” Thatch said.
Second robbery the same day
Hours later at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, another west Cobb commercial business was targeted on the outskirts of Marietta.
According to Cobb Police, three men entered the La Tiendita, a neighborhood grocery store that offers Latino-style goods, off Powder Springs Road.
One suspect approached an employee at the register, as the other two positioned themselves inside the store, Cobb Police said.
The suspected robber at the register pulled out a hand gun and demanded cash from the drawer. Then all three suspects fled the business on foot in an unknown direction, according to Cobb Police.
The suspects were described by Cobb Police as black men between 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, in their late teens to early 20s.
According to Ferrell’s report, this was only the second commercial robbery this year in Zone 5, which expands south from Stilesboro Road to Powder Springs Road.
Unlike the Kay Jewelers case, the Cobb Police report about this armed robbery did not include images or video surveillance footage.
Armed robberies frequent near Cumberland
Two commercial armed robbery cases occurred a week ago on Feb. 23, just outside the Atlanta perimeter.
Both robberies were committed in precinct Zone 3, which is near the Cumberland area where Interstates 75 and 285 intersect.
According to Ferrell’s report, Zone 3 has been victimized by seven armed robberies in the last two months. That is nearly double the four so far this year in Zone 2, which covers southwest Cobb in the Austell and Powder Springs areas.
Houser said the recent rash of armed commercial robberies are not likely to be committed to people living in Cobb.
“You do see a number of crimes where individuals from outside of Cobb target Cobb County businesses and residents,” Houser said.
These crimes tend to follow the areas along interstates, “to use the avenues as a place of escape out to other jurisdictions,” Houser said.
At 4:12 a.m. Feb. 23, a black man entered the Texaco gas station, off Powers Ferry Road, according Bowman.
Bowman said the man pulled a handgun and demanded an employee open the register, then he took an undisclosed amount of cash.
As the suspect fled, he fired one round into the ceiling of the gas station, Bowman said. No injuries were reported.
Half an hour after the Texaco incident, another gas station was robbed off Windy Hill Road, about a mile north of the future Atlanta Braves stadium site.
At 4:45 a.m., a black man is suspected of entering the Sams Mart of a Shell gas station, pulling a handgun and demanding cash from the register.
Bowman said the man took an undisclosed amount of cash and fled on foot.
The two robberies are unrelated, according to Pierce.
In both cases, the suspects were listed by Cobb Police as black men, with no age, body type or clothing descriptions.
Armed thefts in Cobb
In the past two months, there have been 15 commercial robberies in unincorporated Cobb.
Precinct One — 0
Northwest Cobb — includes the Town Center Mall, Kennesaw, and Acworth areas
Precinct Two — 4
Southwest Cobb — includes the Austell and Powder Springs areas
Precinct Three — 7
Southeast Cobb — includes the Cumberland/Galleria, Vinings and Smyrna areas
Precinct Four — 2
Northeast Cobb — Includes the Sandy Plains and Johnson Ferry areas
Precinct Five — 2
West Cobb — includes Dallas Hwy and Macland Road areas
West Cobb - includes Dallas Hwy and Macland Rd areas
Cases of commercial robberies in the past three years:
2011 – 77
(an average of 6.4 a month)
2012 – 69
(an average of 5.75 a month)
2013 – 86
(an average of 7.2 a month)