Columbus police investigating dozens of dollar store robberies

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The Columbus Division of Police is urging shoppers to keep their eyes open when they're shopping at popular dollar stores during the holiday season.

Police say they're investigating a rising number of robberies at shoppers' favorite places to stock up on affordable holiday decorations and stocking stuffers.

The most recent crime happened Tuesday morning at a Family Dollar store in the 6400 block of Winchester Pike in southeast Columbus.

Police say a clerk chased 21-year-old Malik Benjamin out of the store after she says he tried to conceal several items in his pants. The apparent shoplifting escalated to a felony robbery when officers say Benjamin punched the female clerk in the chest.

Police say the incident is the most recent robbery at a dollar store, but not the most violent. CrimeTracker 10 obtained surveillance footage which shows two men wearing masks walking into a Family Dollar store on West Broad Street with a gun ready.

In April, a robber punched a clerk in the face at a Dollar General on Parsons Avenue. Police say the clerk fell and was knocked unconscious.

In June, surveillance camera video shows a clerk at a Dollar Store on East Main Street held up with a gun to her back. Police say so far, detectives have investigated 73 robberies at dollars stores across the city of Columbus in 2017.

"I think it is more of a cash-driven business and that may be one factor," said Columbus Police Robbery Sergeant Shaun Laird.

Police say in many cases, a neighborhood dollar store may be one of only a handful of retailers that's easily accessible to would-be robbers who want quick cash.

"So, those businesses are out there and there's a whole lot of them so there's a lot of potential targets if that's what you're looking for," said Sgt. Laird.

Police say robbers often wait for customers to clear the store before they make their move, so detectives urge you to pay attention if someone appears to be deliberately stalling or waiting for you to check out. Police say above all, trust your gut instinct and call police if you believe someone is "casing" a store.