HIGHLAND — Police are urging business owners and employees to be on high alert, saying they believe a single individual may be behind a string of suspected armed robberies and attempted robberies in the Region over the last two weeks.
"Watch out for suspicious people, and if you see anything, say something. Dial 911," Munster Police Lt. Ed Strbjak said Thursday.
The man appears to be striking businesses in the early evening hours, though a Subway restaurant in Highland was robbed early Wednesday morning, Highland Police Cmdr. Ralph Potesta said.
The suspect has targeted sandwich shops, gas stations, a health food store, tanning salon and a smoothie shop, he said.
In some cases, the suspect, having been unsuccessful at one business, quickly targets another business in the same night, and sometimes within the same hour, authorities said.
Potesta described the suspect as a white or Hispanic individual with a thin build, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and in his late teens to late 20s. The man always implies he has a weapon and demands cash, he said.
In the latest known incident, the suspect robbed L.A. Tan, 2233 45th St., in Highland at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday and then reportedly headed to Munster to rob the Jimmy John's at 548 Ridge Road at about 8:40 p.m., according to authorities.
Strbjak said the suspect also tried to rob Baums Natural Foods in Munster at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"The subject came in with a weapon, but for whatever reason, was scared off and ran out of the business," Strbjak said.
Less than an hour later, the man reportedly targeted the Smoothie King in St. John and demanded money from the registers, according to St. John Police Chief James Kveton. The employees complied and the person then fled from the store.
On Monday, the suspect tried to rob the Witham's Sav-A-Stop in Highland at about 9:20 p.m. but was unsuccessful.
Then, at 9:37 p.m., he robbed a Subway store in Highland, Potesta said.
Police said Speedway gas stations and other locations were targeted last week as well.
Kventon said Wednesday police are "still putting all the pieces together."
Potesta said anyone with information about these robberies should contact their local law enforcement.