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Police meet to discuss Dunkin’ robbery spree

Surveillance photo from a Dunkin’ Donuts robbery in Canton.

Canton Police Department

Surveillance photo from a Dunkin’ Donuts robbery in Canton.

NORWOOD — Police from 16 Massachusetts communities say they are trying to identify the Dunkin’ Donuts bandit and are asking for the public’s help in finding the person or persons who have used handguns and knives to terrorize workers during 22 armed robberies since March.

Canton police Detective Sergeant James Quigley said detectives are stumped, hampered in part by the fact that the bandit’s face is always obscured and by the mediocre quality of surveillance videos from some of the restaurants robbed during the series of robberies, which began March 12 in Westwood.

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Quigley represented his department at a strategy meeting held Wednesday by the affected police departments at Norwood police headquarters.

He said police are not close to making an arrest.

“No,’’ he said, “not at this point.’’

During the 22 robberies — some restaurants have been hit more than once — the thief, or thieves, is seen wearing a baggy sweatshirt and a mask over part of his face. He arrives and leaves on foot and is armed with either a handgun or knife.

“We’re appealing for any help we can get,’’ Quigley said. “We’re looking for the public’s help. You know that old saying, ‘If you see something, say something.’”

Some communities — including Newton, Westwood, and West Roxbury — have had multiple robberies. Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood has had five robberies at three locations, police said.

The wave of robberies continued this week, with Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in Bedford and Burlington being hit on Monday night, and a store in Rockland being hit on Tuesday night.

Quigley said investigators currently have not connected a Sept. 10 Dunkin’ Donuts robbery in Nashua to the Massachusetts robberies.

The closed-door police meeting, which drew detectives from at least one department in a town that has not been hit, was the latest meeting between authorities since the wave of robberies started.

“All along, since the Dunkin’ Donuts robberies have started, we’ve had the communities involved meeting collaboratively, getting together, and talking about their specific case, what’s unique to their case, and what’s comparable to the others,’’ said Lieutenant Peter Kelley Jr. of the Norwood Police Department.

Kelley said that the wave of robberies should be a concern not only to Dunkin’ Donuts employees, but also to anyone in the retail or service industry.

He urged anyone who is confronted by an armed robber to do whatever that robber says, including giving him any money asked for.

“Don’t fight them,” Kelley said.

He reminded the public that Dunkin’ Donuts is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the robberies.

The reporters gathered at the Norwood police station drew the attention of a Norwood man who said he works at a Westwood Dunkin’ Donuts that has been robbed.

He said he was told the robber put a gun to a female colleague’s head and demanded she open the cash register.

He said his colleague’s mother stayed in the store at closing time every night the following week because the teenager was afraid.

“I think we should get a raise,” said the worker, who asked not to have his name published because he did not want to lose his job. “We put our lives in jeopardy.”

Quigley said police are looking into whether the bandit ever worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts, given the robber’s apparent familiarity with how the restaurants are laid out and an ability to open the cash registers.

But that is just one of the strands detectives are examining, Quigley said.

“Everything is being looked at,’’ he said, adding that in the 22 robberies, the thief was able to open the registers because no employee password was needed when the stores are robbed.

Police believe that the Dunkin’ Donuts chain has been targeted for some straightforward reasons, Quigley said.

There are many locations, they are open in the evenings when the thief has chosen to strike, and they usually have cash on hand, even though employees are now clearing cash registers more frequently than in the past.

Quigley said the robberies have netted the bandit hundreds of dollars each time, with the largest haul being $500.

He said that investigators do not believe the bandit is taunting police by continuing the robberies when multiple police agencies are focused on him.

He said the thief does not make any taunting gestures toward the surveillance cameras.

Quigley said police are worried that the robberies, which so far have not resulted in any injuries to Dunkin’ Donuts personnel, could become more violent.

“It hasn’t happened so far,’’ Quigley said, “but it can happen.’’

Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Craven. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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