Two Thayer vintage stores robbed within four days

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Providence Police Department is investigating two armed robberies of vintage stores that took place on Thayer Street last week.

The first robbery occurred around 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19 at New and Vintage Apparel at 281 Thayer St., also known as NAVA. A female clerk told police that a man entered, walked around and then asked if anyone else was in the store. After she responded “no,” the suspect approached her while she was next to the cash register. The man then placed an object wrapped in fabric against her back, according to a police report. He told the clerk to “Give me the money.”

The suspect took about $500 from the register. The clerk then went with the subject to the rear door and opened it, at which point the suspect fled.

The clerk described the suspect as a black male around 6’1” with a heavy build and short hair. He was wearing a brown leather coat with “ROCA” on the back.

The second robbery occurred on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at Foreign Affair, another vintage clothing store, at 219 Thayer St. Police responded at 4:34 p.m. to a report of a suspicious person leaving the building and “a female with a bloody face pursuing” the person, according to a police report.

The victim told police that the suspect entered the store in a friendly manner. She asked what he was looking for and he said he wanted to get something for his mother. While walking through the store, the suspect’s demeanor changed, and he abruptly pushed the victim on his way to the cash register. The suspect threatened the clerk with his hand wrapped in a T-shirt, as if concealing a weapon, and demanded the money in the register.

The clerk refused to cooperate and the suspect pushed her to the floor. He then hit and repeatedly kicked the victim in the face before dragging her toward the back of the store and pushing her under a clothing rack, asking her, “Why couldn’t you be cool?”

At this point two witnesses entered the store and the suspect fled on foot. He went south on Thayer and turned east on Waterman Street.

The clerk described the suspect as a black male around 5 feet 10 inches with short hair, a husky build and a brown coat.

Based on the physical descriptions and “the way he wraps his hand,” Lt. John Ryan, commander of Providence Police District 9, believes the robberies are related. District 9 includes Brown and much of the East Side.

A man matching the description of the vintage store robber also robbed a Dunkin Donuts on Admiral Street Sunday evening around 7 p.m.

“He seems very brazen,” Ryan said, referencing the fact that both Thayer robberies occurred in daylight on a busy street. “There is a definite possibility that he will come back.”

In response to the robberies, police have increased patrols on Thayer Street and warned other solo clerks to contact the police if someone matching the descriptions enters their store, Ryan said.

The robberies surprised many Thayer retailers.

“I’m shocked,” said Jagdish Sachdev, owner of Spectrum India. “I suppose it can happen sometimes. I’ve been in business for 41 years on this street. On this block, we haven’t had anything of this kind.”

Andrea LaRue, a clerk at Foreign Affair not on duty at the time of the robbery, said the crimes worried her because she often works alone and has to close up the store by herself.

“I’m pretty scared,” she said. “A lot of people just assume because Brown is here and it’s the East Side, it’s safe. Bad things do happen here.”

Rhode Island currently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and Ryan fears this may lead to increased crime.

“As the jobless rate goes up, sometimes crime has a tendency to go up” he said. “Crime can happen anywhere.”

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