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Police chief: Rash of armed robberies not 'new normal'

March 4th, 2014 10:02 pm by Max Hrenda

Police chief: Rash of armed robberies not 'new normal'

This image from the surveillance camera at Bevins Pharmacy shows the man police believe used a gun to steal an undisclosed amount of narcotics. (Image Contributed)

Although there have been five armed robberies in the last week alone, a police department official said the public shouldn’t expect to see that trend continue.

Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois said, while the area has seen a recent rash of violent crime, that isn’t indicative of the state of Johnson City.

On Monday, a man in a mask robbed Bevins Pharmacy after threatening the clerk with a gun. That incident came three days after the Roadrunner Market at the intersection of East Oakland Avenue and Princeton Road was robbed at gunpoint. The day before that robbery, police responded to another robbery, this time at the Sunoco station at 1001 S. Roan St. Two days before that, two other Johnson City convenience stores were robbed, one of them at knifepoint.

Despite the close proximity of all of these crimes, Sirois said he didn’t think Johnson City was becoming a hazardous place to live.

“I don’t think that it’s becoming more dangerous,” Sirois said. “Every now and again — anywhere you go — you’re going to find a spike in criminal activity from time to time.

“But let me make it clear — this is not the ‘new normal.’”

Instead of attributing the crimes to any prevalent problem or condition, Sirois said the nature of crime can be cyclical, and that patterns of these and other crimes can come and go for no particular reason.

“If you look over our crime rate, historically, we do have a pattern,” Sirois said. “For example, we’ll have a cycle of armed robberies. We’ll have a cycle of big shopliftings. But it might be hard to attribute that to any one specific reason.”

While he may not be able to pinpoint one specific reason, Sirois added that the majority of offenses that are committed, whether violent or not, are drug-related.

“It is a high number that’s tied to the drug culture, the drug trade, (and) people who are addicts,” Sirois said. “Addicts will do a number of things in order to get the resources they need to get to their next fix. That’s why we’re heavily invested in drug interdiction and drug enforcement.”

Limiting access to and dependency on drugs, Sirois continued, could limit or reduce the number of crimes — violent or otherwise — that occur in Johnson City.

“We want to drive down those occurrences here in our community,” he said. “That’s critical. When we drive that down, then associated offenses will also be driven down. And we’ve seen some success in that over time, and we hope to see more.”

In addition to continued drug enforcement efforts, Sirois said that an increase in participation from private citizens on any level, from involvement in neighborhood watch associations to submitting a tip to Crime Stoppers, would contribute to safety in the city.

“I think a lot of people have an investment in their community,” he said. “I think, through neighborhood watch and individuals taking ownership of their own community and working with the police and addressing those issues, I don’t think at all (Johnson City) is becoming a more dangerous place.”

Rather than becoming more dangerous, Sirois said the increase in public participation in law enforcement has already yielded positive results.

“If anything, with heightened awareness on the part of the community, and the enforcement efforts we’re undertaking, I think we’re more aware of what’s going on and, as a community of both law enforcement and citizens, working together to try to address these issues,” he said. “I think we’re on top of it.”

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