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While crime rates haven't risen, robberies are still an issue for local businesses

By RYAN HANSON
DCN Reporter

As Duluth Police officer Ron Tinsley pulls his large frame from his squad car, his long strides move him confidently to a shattered store window. He bends over slowly, and with a knowing eye, looks at the glass.

“That’s definitely not a bullet hole,? says Tinsley, shaking his head, as he looks back over his police report.

He talks briefly to the owner of the store, and gives him a case number for his insurance company.

“There’s not a heckuva lot more we can do,? said Tinsley, “there’s nothing to follow up on.?

Petty crimes, such as a broken storefront window, are becoming more and more common in Duluth. Vandalism alone was up 82 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to the Duluth Police Department Web site. The number of robberies has remained largely the same from 2005 to 2006, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still an issue for some local businesses.

Lee Cummings-Gibbs knows first hand the helplessness of being robbed. On the last Wednesday of October, she was working the afternoon shift when a man came in and robbed the First Oriental Grocery store where she works.

“This guy came in with his hands in his pockets, and a hood on,? said Cummings-Gibbs. “He said, ‘I need to use a phone’ and asked for change. He was looking at the cash register.

“I opened my cash register and he came close, grabbed the $20s and the fives and ran away,? continues Cummings-Gibbs. “I ran to the door and yelled ‘Help me! Help me! I was robbed!’ then I called the police and they came right away. The people were very proactive in helping.?

Despite the experience, Cummings-Gibbs still works daily to provide the community with a unique selection of food.

“I always felt good here,? said Cummings-Gibbs. “The police said ‘please don’t close.’ I’m here to serve the community, and when you’re nice, sometimes you can be taken advantage of.?

Further down Superior Street, an employee at the Super America gas station recalls a manager being robbed just a year ago.

“It was eight or nine o’clock [in the morning], and this guy came in to buy a coffee and a newspaper,? said Jason Turnquist. “He came around the counter and said he had a gun.

“He made off with about 200 bucks,? said Turnquist. “Then he walked casually down the street. They busted him about an hour later.?

The store hasn’t seen any significant crimes since, except for their bathroom being occasionally damaged.

“There are homeless people that wash up in the bathroom,? said Turnquist, “but they don’t really destroy anything.?

While Super One Foods across the street from the Super America, hasn’t had a robbery problem in years they do have an issue with shoplifting and intoxicated people.

“They steal piddly things,? said Super One manager Heather Johnson, "mainly around the steak section. On a good week, the police show up to remove someone probably four out of five days."

“They’re either picked up for shoplifting or disturbing the peace,? said Johnson.

Often times, if they’re picked up by the police on a drunk and disorderly charge, they’ll end up at the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment just a few blocks down the road on Superior Street and 14th Avenue.

Laurie Hall, program director at the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, says that people the center helps come from all walks of life, from “professionals to non-professionals.?

“A standard stay is two to three days, and we make sure that they are medically detoxed,? said Hall. “They’re brought here by themselves, by doctors and the police. Police will actually walk the people in the door.?