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HPD turns focus on violent cell phone store robberies

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Violent robberies at Houston cell phone stores have gone from bad to worse. We've seen clerks killed and watched others fight back. Now there's a new plan on the way to stop these criminals.

Just days ago, we were on the scene of a deadly cell phone store robbery. Family members say that store owner's body is on the way back to Pakistan for burial.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says they want to bring a stop to these violent store robberies, and on Thursday, he announced the creation of a new task force to crack down on the criminals behind them. For workers at cell phone stores, that is good news.

It was business as usual in a Westheimer Cricket cell phone store on Thursday, but about two weeks ago, things were turned upside down when store employees turned the tables and fought back against an alleged robber. Surveillance footage shows two workers wrestling with the suspect. Employee Joe Gonzalez Grabbed a chair.

"I ran back and grabbed the closest thing I could find and ran at the guy with it," Gonzalez said.

The Cricket store workers were able to hold the suspect until police arrived.

"It's only getting worse," Gonzalez said.

And weeks later it did, when the owner of this southeast Houston Boost mobile store was murdered after investigators say two robbers showed up.

"What if that was us? What would we do if we were in that situation? It's crazy," Gonzalez said.

"We may have a spike in these type of robberies," McClelland said.

And because of that, McClelland says they are taking extra steps to educate cell phone store workers on how to make themselves less of a target.

"We believe that the issue is serious enough that we have formed a task force to look at each and every one of these robberies, how we can solve and bring these thugs and these criminals to justice," McClelland said.

Gonzalez says after what he's seen and experienced, he believes a task force is exactly what's needed.

HPD says it had a lot of the techniques already in place but it's now offering advice to employees of those store employees. They recommend surveillance cameras both inside and outside the store.

HPD also says it is also exploring some electronics tracking devices on some of those phones.
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