WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Wilmington Police Department is asking for help tracking a suspect they are calling the Newport Bandit.
In the past two weeks, they say he has robbed three stores and reports show he took more than $400 worth of cartons of Newport cigarettes. Detective Kevin Smith say he is doing what they call a 'grab and dash'. He doesn't use a weapon, but will either grab Newports out of their display case and run or ask to buy Newports, then when they are placed on the counter, police say he will grab them and run.
Police say he has robbed the Scotchman on Kerr, the Wilco on Carolina Beach Road and the Handee Hugo on Oleander. Detective Smith says they believe he could be turning around and reselling them.
"Occasionally, when one person steals one particular brand of cigarette that person is out there reselling them or selling them individually to try to raise money," said Smith. Detective Smith suggests that clerks ask to see a customers ID before they even pull out cigarettes, that way, if the customer does steal them, the clerk will at least know their name.
The owner of the Wrightsville and Masonboro Country Stores says he was robbed of cartons of cigarettes so many times, he stopped selling them altogether. He says it's a problem that needs to stop.
Inside his stores, cigarettes are only sold by the pack to take away the incentive of breaking in. He also keeps packs above the clerks head, that way they never have to turn their back to the customer.
"If they can approach them, they probably can get to them," explained Musa Agil. He says cartons cost about $50, which adds up fast, especially in this economy.
Police say if you have any information about the suspect you should call the Wilmington Police Department at 910-343-3600 , or Detective T. Williams at 910-343-3639.