HOLBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Small business owners in Suffolk County are on edge after a dozen break-ins.

A thief was caught on camera ripping out cash registers, leaving some merchants with thousands of dollars in damage and losses, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday.

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Restaurant owner Tony Mavruk was alerted to a break-in early Wednesday morning.

“Unfortunately, I had to watch this live on my phone,” Mavruk said.

He watched live security footage as a thief smashed the front door at Hummas Mediterranean and ripped out the cash register. A large, concrete block was used.

Other merchants chimed in when Mavruk posted the video online.

“Hey this just happened to us and it’s the same brick,” Mavruk said. “You’re heartbroken. You feel like someone’s literally taking food out of your kids’ mouths.”

It’s the same M.O. used in a dozen recent break-ins, mostly at food establishments in Holbrook and nearby communities over the last two weeks.

The owners of Mayra’s Bakery, which opened less than a year ago, are now stuck with costly repairs.

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“We feel very, very sad because we feel like this is a safe neighborhood,” said Amenhotep Ruiz.

A deli was hit twice in the last week. The perpetrator ripped out the cash register the first time. The next time, he ripped out the ATM and walked away with it.

Surveillance video at a hair salon captured video of a burglar. It shows some facial features – a tall man, 6 feet or more.

Suffolk Police said it’s a pattern.

“If you’re passing by, driving by a strip mall or something and there’s a person loitering at, say, two o’clock in the morning, call 911. He’s not there waiting for the place to open,” said Chief Mathew Lewis.

Police are ramping up overnight patrols. The Chamber of Commerce advises business owners to take their cash home.

“Always leave the register open with no till in it and then therefore there won’t be a problem,” said Rick Ammirati, president of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce. “Timing couldn’t be worse. Coming off the pandemic, this is absolutely terrible for these business owners to have to go through this.”

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Not much money is kept in these establishments. Victims said it’s a lot of damage for little gain.

Carolyn Gusoff