HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nassau and Suffolk county police are working together to try solve a string of armed robberies on Long Island.
The latest incident happened around 7 p.m. Sunday at the Pier 1 Imports store in a popular shopping center on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station.
The masked man walked into the store, pulled out a gun and forced employees and customers to the back of the store, police said.
He then restrained the victims, forced an employee to open the safe and took cash from the registers and valuables from customers before taking off, according to investigators.
“It’s very frightening. You always think, ‘It’s never going to happen to me,’ but you honestly never know,” one woman who works nearby told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.
Employees at the store arriving for work Monday morning said it was all news to them.
“I haven’t heard about anything,” one employee told CBS2’s Diane Macedo.
“I wasn’t aware,” another employee said.
One employee at the store told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan that her co-workers were OK and that no one saw the car the robber fled in.
Police say at least 12 stores have been hit since September by what appears to be the same masked man who is armed with a gun and plastic zip ties.
At a Rainbow store in Lindenhurst on Nov. 2, the suspect stole directly from the customers, Macedo reported.
“I was robbed as well, $400 and my jewelry,” one victim said. “I walked into the store and I was robbed. The guy was holding us to gunpoint. There was ladies behind the counter, tied up and stuff.”
Just last week at Destination Maternity in Carle Place, police said the masked gunman posed as a cleaner, walking in with a work vest on, a broom in his hand and his head down.
A New York & Company store in West Babylon was also robbed on Oct 12.
Customers at the Pier 1 on Monday said they hope other stores are on alert.
“They should improve the security around here, to protect the workers, customers — everybody,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
“Maybe they need better cameras,” another woman said.
Some shoppers told McLogan they wish police had gone public sooner.
“Pretty scary to think that you can’t even go shopping anymore for fear that you’re going to be robbed while you’re in the store,” said Kim Troche.
Some complain companies have been cutting corners when it comes to safety.
“The companies themselves, they don’t have the security in place,” said shopper Steve Levine. “They don’t want to spend the money.”
Police say in some cases, the suspect has disarmed security systems. Investigators say that so far they don’t have clear security photos to share with the public.
Some victims are considering lawsuits against the stores.
Suffolk County police Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said the department is working with Nassau County police in hopes of finding the suspect.
“We’re working on the assumption that it’s the same individual who has committed these robberies,” Fallon told 1010 WINS.
Police are deploying undercover, K-9 and aviation units. They say, with clues pouring in, they hope to soon catch the thief.
Cops describe the suspect as a black man, 25 to 35 years old and about 6 feet tall with a thin build. He was wearing a mask, a hooded sweatshirt and black leather gloves.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.