UPDATE: RCMP call for public’s help following string of robberies

One pizza shop making immediate changes to operating hours to increase employee safety

Police are investigating a string of robberies over the past several days in the downtown core, and believe one man is responsible for the crimes.

The robberies have taken place between March 17 and March 23, and RCMP say they are looking for a Caucasian man with a pale complexion with acne. He is slender, between 5’6″ and 6″ tall, and is often in dark clothing.

RCMP have confirmed that on March 23 at 5:30 p.m. a lone man, with his face covered and carrying a concealed weapon, entered a convenience store located in the 46000 block of Yale Road. The suspect allegedly demanded money from a store employee working at the till then fled on foot from the store with the stolen cash. Officers of the Chilliwack RCMP with the Integrated Police Dog Services responded to the robbery complaint and conducted an intense search of the area. The suspect was not found.

“The same person is believed to be responsible for the recent rash of armed robberies in the downtown area of the city,” said Cpl. Mike Rail.

Chilliwack RCMP Serious Crime, General Investigation Support Team, Crime Reduction Unit and the RCMP Forensic Identification Section continue to investigate evidence from this most recent robbery as well as the previous ones.

The first was on March 17, at about 11:20 p.m., when a man with his face covered, carrying a concealed weapon, entered a convenience store located in the 45000 block of Yale Road. The suspect allegedly approached the till and demanded cash from the victim. The suspect fled on foot from the store with cash stolen from the till.

On March 19 at about 5:04 p.m., a man with his face covered entered a corner store located in the 45000 block of Yale Road and demanded cash from the market owner. The suspect indicated he had a weapon during the alleged robbery. The suspect fled on foot from the business empty handed after being challenged by the store owner.

On March 20, two businesses were robbed by a man who entered each business with his face covered carrying a concealed weapon.

At 11:38 a.m. that day, the owner of a restaurant in the 45000 block of Hocking Avenue was confronted inside of his business by a man allegedly demanding cash. When challenged by the owner, the suspect fled on foot from the restaurant.

And at 11:28 p.m. a man entered a restaurant in the 9200 block of Young Street and allegedly demanded cash from the till. The suspect fled on foot with cash stolen from the business.

Then on March 22 at 12:15 p.m. a man with his face covered and carrying a concealed weapon entered a restaurant in the 9100 block of Young Street.  The man allegedly indicated to employees that he had a weapon and demanded money. The man fled on foot with cash stolen from the restaurant.

Again on March 22, a man with his face covered carrying a concealed weapon entered a restaurant located in the 46000 block of Yale Road. The suspect allegedly demanded money from the restaurant employee and fled on foot with cash stolen from the restaurant.

Police ask anyone who may have any information regarding these robberies to contact the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-492-4611 or should you wish to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-847 (TIPS).

For at least one of the businesses, being robbed has meant an immediate change in the way they do business.

Diane Melanson, owner of the downtown Jim’s Pizza, confirmed that they have changed their hours to close their doors a little earlier each evening to allow staff some added safety.

“It was a bit of a shock,” Melanson said. “We’ve never been robbed, never in 18 years.”

There were a couple of attempts in the past, she said, but none of those were successful, and occurred before Melanson’s ownership.

She said her staff handled the robbery very well.

“I’m very proud of them, and they’re doing very well,” she said. “They handled themselves well.”

In the wake of the robbery, they’ve decided to change their operation hours. They will now be open until 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, and midnight Thursdays to Saturdays. The numbers of staff will be increased during those open hours, to help increase safety. Melanson has spoken with the owners of Jim’s Pizza in Sardis, who are willing to help out customers on the north side of the freeway in those late night hours.