After two late-night armed robberies of downtown pedestrians over a five-week span, police have added patrols and Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens will meet with business owners Tuesday morning to discuss safety measures.
“The merchants often talk among themselves and they hear from their customers, so there is a lot of misinformation about what LPD is actually doing,” said Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.
She sent out emails inviting merchants to the 8 a.m. gathering, which will be in the Police Department’s second-floor community room.
“Rather than speculate, the best thing is to hear from the chief himself. The merchants will be able to ask questions and hear from the chief about what is being done,” she said.
Gary Gross, Police Department spokesman, said extra patrols have been added downtown for the the late-evening and early-morning hours.
“Some schedules have been rearranged so we can do this,” he said.
The extra officers are assigned throughout the week and are working a combination of vehicle, bicycle and foot patrols, he said.
Both robberies occurred during the week rather than on busier weekend nights and were after 11 p.m. near restaurants that also have bars.
On Oct. 17, three women were walking alongside Lemon Street after leaving Mojo Federal Swine & Spirits when two men came up, their faces covered by dark T-shirts. One woman was hit on the back of the head and face until she fell to the ground. One of the assailants grabbed her purse and the two men ran away. The two other women were not injured.
A witness reported hearing three popping sounds, like a BB gun, and investigators found a BB-style cylinder, so the robbers may have used a BB gun, Gross said.
On Sept. 15, a man had walked out of Frescos, 192 S. Kentucky Ave., into an alleyway leading to a parking lot when a red two-door car, a Chevrolet – possibly a late 1990s model – with a factory spoiler came from behind, passed him and stopped. Two men got out of the car, one armed with a firearm, and robbed him before driving off.
In both cases, the robbers were described as young, thin black men although Gross said that investigators have not said whether they believe the two robberies are related.
“The detectives are getting tips and they are following up on them,” Gross said.
Anyone with tips is asked to call Detective Laura Robertson at 863-834-6974 or email her at [email protected].
To provide anonymous information and be eligible for a cash reward, call Heartland Crime Stoppers Florida at 1-800-226-8478 (TIPS) or submit an online tip. For a secure and password-protected mobile app for a smart device, go to the app store and download the free “P3tips” mobile app.
Townsend said that the merchants want their customers and employees to feel safe while strolling around downtown at night.
Crime Prevention Tips
Personal Safety Tips on the Street
• If possible, don’t walk alone during late-night hours. Walk in groups whenever you can—there is always safety in numbers.
• Stay in well-lit areas as much as possible. Avoid alleys, vacant lots, wooded areas, and other short-cuts or secluded areas. They are usually not well-lit or heavily traveled.
• Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. Walk close to the curb, avoiding doorways, bushes, and other potential hiding places.
• Walk confidently, directly, and at a steady pace. Don’t stop to talk to strangers.
• Wear clothing and shoes that give you freedom of movement. And don’t burden yourself with too many packages or items.
• Always be aware of your surroundings. If you are wearing headphones, don’t turn up the volume so high that you cannot hear outside noises.
• Report any suspicious activity or person immediately to the police department.
• Avoid carrying large sums of cash, or displaying expensive jewelry in public.
• Trust your instincts – If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave
During A Robbery
• Stay calm and don’t resist – Do as instructed. Don’t make sudden moves.
• Keep your hands in sight at all times.
• Get a look at the robber but don’t stare. Do your best to look for something distinctive about the suspect(s). Take note of the type of weapon, get-away vehicle, etc.
• Personal safety first! Money and property is not important and CAN be replaced!
• Don’t chase or follow the robber. Let the police catch the robber. Call 911!