Police in Central Vermont are investigating seven unsolved robberies in Berlin and Barre since October. They believe the last three are linked to a blue tape wearing bandit, likely driven by drugs. Victims say they shouldn't need armed guards to run a business.
Forty seconds: that's all it takes for a robber to devastate a business.
"We work seven days a week. To have this kind of terrorism going on is just unbelievable," Pam Trag said.
Pam and Guy Trag know all too well how a stickup can hurt business. They own Quality Market in Barre and have been targeted twice since October.
Pam Trag: All you worry about is your people and making sure that they're safe and they're terrified, just terrified.
Guy Trag: It's very unnerving to come here and find a cashier in tears because of this and going "I'm sorry."
Barre City Police released surveillance video from the Trags' store. Sunday night, a man came in, his face hidden behind blue painter's tape. He indicated he had a gun, told the clerk to hand over the cash drawer and escaped in a black pickup.
"I've never seen duct tape or tape on somebody's face, no. Masks, Halloween masks, scarves, all those kinds of things, but never duct tape," Barre City Police Chief Tim Bombardier said.
Police say a man with the same disguise held up a Mobil Station in Berlin Monday and the Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Barre Tuesday. Although authorities say disguises can make it tougher to crack cases, it's often how suspects move that give them away.
"A lot of people are identified by their mannerisms and by people who know them. So they see this person walking. They see this person move. It's their mannerisms and they say, 'Gee, I know who that is,'" Bombardier said.
The Trags have owned Quality Market for a decade and have watched the problem get worse, dealing with multiple break-ins a year. They spent thousands upgrading security and adding cameras, only to find the thieves now walk in the front door. They say they'll have to rack-up $4,000 in sales just to recoup what the blue tape bandit stole.
"I don't want any more money spent on programs to help these people. I want money spent on police, on doing something to prosecute these people," Pam Trag said.
"I hope it goes away. We catch the people responsible and they go to jail. That part goes away. Is there going to be someone to take their place? I don't know," Bombardier said.
A troubling trend for small business owners like the Trags who worry about finding clerks to staff the night shift.
"We bought our second store in December and we had to make a decision, do you want to hang it up or do you want to go all in and do this for another 10 years? We made that decision, but then stuff like this makes you go, why did I sign up for this?" Guy Trag said.
Police don't believe the blue tape bandit is acting alone and say as many as four people could be involved. Police have changed the way they patrol the area but wouldn't elaborate on their new tactics.
Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward leading to the suspect's conviction. If you know who he is, call police.
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