DETROIT (WXYZ) — A crime spree at dollar stores is catching the attention of Detroit police, who warn these stores are “soft targets.”
Roughly 25% of all dollar stores in the city were robbed this month, with 20 armed robberies in just 22 days. Some of the robberies occurred within minutes of each other.
Detroit police have announced charges against one suspects and are awaiting charges on another suspect in custody. They believe they have identified one of the suspects responsible for multiple robberies.
One of those robberies occurred at a Family Dollar on W. 7 Mile Road, where Savannah McKenzie says she shops often.
“This is our neighborhood Family Dollar, so I'm always here,” McKenzie said. "I have a 2-year-old, so I got Pull-Ups to buy, little knick knacks.”
Many shoppers like McKenzie say dollar stores are a convenient option, with more than 70 throughout the city.
“It's very convenient, man. It’s in almost every neighborhood,” shopper Vern B said.
"Every time you know you need a few items, you run to the dollar store or Family Dollar,” Thomas Rodney added.
McKenzie is aware of the uptick in armed robberies but still feels safe shopping at Family Dollar. She said her siblings had even been inside a store when a robbery occurred.
"Yeah they had to put all their stuff down and duck and hide out the back door,” McKenzie said.
Armed robberies inside dollar stores are nothing new and sometimes lead to gunfire. In November at a Family Dollar on the west side, a 23-year-old clerk was shot in the leg.
“There's a reason they are being targeted," Detroit Police Department Chief James White said. "We believe they’re soft targets and people are taking advantage of that.”
White says they’re working with the companies to solve these cases and find solutions to prevent them from happening.
“There's a reason they're choosing them, so we just want to make sure we harden the target and talk to them to make sure they're doing everything on their ended to assist us, so it doesn't result in these robberies,” White said. “Regardless of whether or not they have security or whatever, they shouldn't be victimized. But the reality is, that's not the case”
In response to this story, Family Dollar disagreed with what White said, saying:
"At Dollar Tree and Family Dollar we partner with law enforcement in the communities we serve, including and especially in high-crime areas, to fortify our store security. Our data does not indicate our stores are soft targets. In addition to our ongoing investments in store security, we work with law enforcement to help them identify and apprehend individuals who have committed crimes in our stores, which has also led to the capture of criminals who had committed other violent crimes in our communities."
Dollar General also responded with a statement, saying:
"Creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for our customers and teams is a priority at Dollar General. We employ many safety and security measures within our stores to prevent, deter and, if necessary, respond to criminal activity. We do not publicly comment on specific safety protocols to maintain the integrity of these measures."
While calling these stores "soft targets," White placed blame solely on those committing the robberies.
"That's the bad person, that’s the person that shouldn't do it," White said. "We're not going to beat up on the dollar store businesses trying to run a business in our community. We need to keep the responsibility where it is, on the person making this horrible decision."