Cambridge Sees Uptick in Commercial Robberies

Commercial robberies in Cambridge are up over 75 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, according to the most recent crime analysis report from the Cambridge Police Department.

In the October report, CPD recorded 32 total commercial robberies in Cambridge from January through October 2017, while in the same window last year, only 18 such instances were reported. Over the previous five years, the number of reported commercial robberies averaged around 21 for the same time period.

According to their 2016 Annual Crime Report, CPD defines commercial robbery as the forceful taking of valuables from “a commercial or financial establishment.” Bank heists and convenience store hold-ups were the most commonly committed type, Warnick said. Of the 32 reported commercial robberies, 10 were bank heists.

CPD writes in the report that this uptick follows the wider trend of a rise in bank robberies around eastern Massachusetts since Thanksgiving 2016.

“This isn’t isolated to Cambridge. This is a regional issue,” Jeremy Warnick, spokesperson for CPD, said. “There’s been a regional increase in bank robberies and regional increase in convenience store robberies as well.”

Most of the incidents in Cambridge occurred in the first half of the year, according to Warnick. Since July, CPD logged only 8 commercial robberies.

Though the issue of robberies is a citywide concern, Warnick acknowledged that the squares, including Harvard, Central, Kendall, and Porter, are more “vulnerable.”

Most recently in Harvard Square, CPD responded to a bank robbery on Nov. 7 and were able to apprehend the suspect, according to CPD public police logs. In January of this year, two banks on Massachusetts Ave., one in Harvard Square and the other in Central Square, also reported robberies.

According to Warnick, CPD believes that the increase in commercial robberies is caused in part by the opioid epidemic. Warnick said “people that are suffering from addiction looking for quick cash to be able to satisfy their cravings” may be committing the crimes.

Besides addressing the opioid epidemic, CPD has assigned officers as business liaisons, who serve as primary links between business and the police.

“[Liaisons] provide everything from training and security assessments for businesses to just being that ongoing point of contact,” Warnick said.

Warnick added that when the department notices ongoing trends of crime affecting certain areas, they may opt to increase police presence, including deploying plainclothes and undercover officers.

Louie's
Cheng-San Chen, owner of the local convenience store Louie's Superette, says crime used to be worse in Harvard Square.
Though this year’s trend may be worrisome for some business owners, others, such as Cheng-San Chen, owner of the local convenience store Louie’s Superette, say the situation has been worse in the past.

“Maybe ten years ago, I had three or four robberies at a time,” Chen said. “[There] used to be almost two acres of empty land across from me, a building where the teenage kids used to hide out, but now Harvard put a new building on the corner almost ten years ago. Now there’s a building, more people walk around, it’s a better neighborhood.”

According to the 2016 Annual Crime Report, ten years ago, in 2007, 41 commercial robberies were reported in Cambridge. Since then, the number of annual reported instances has not crossed over 40.

—Contributing writer Cecelia R. D’Arms contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at michael.xie@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.

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