By Michelle Graff
Hammond, La.—Police have arrested four men potentially connected to a string of smash-and-grab robberies across eastern Texas after they allegedly hit another jewelry store in Louisiana.

The Hammond (Louisiana) Police Department announced via its Facebook page that the robbery happened at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

Three men wearing hoodies entered the city’s Kay Jewelers store and destroyed jewelry cases with a sledgehammer, grabbing nearly $70,000 in merchandise, police said. They fled the store in a waiting white Toyota Avalon with temporary Texas plates.

A bystander was able to snap a photo of the suspects’ vehicle as it sped from the scene.

Police said a description of the men and the vehicle were quickly disseminated to other police departments along the I-12 corridor, which runs east to west in Louisiana from Slidell to Baton Rouge.

At about 6 p.m., Baton Rouge police stopped a car heading west on I-12—toward Texas—that matched the description of the car seen fleeing the scene.

They took four suspects into custody: 43-year-old Ellis Gholson of Houston; Kameron McCoy, 21, of Houston; 22-year-old Frederick Gibson Jr. of Fresno, Texas; and Travion Walker, 29, of Houston.

Police said all four men have been charged with armed robbery.

WATCH: Hammond Police Chief on the Jewelry Store Robbery

In an interview with local station ActionNews 17, Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron Jr. said officers did not recover any of the $69,000 in merchandise stolen from the Kay Jewelers store.

He said it is believed there was a “tail vehicle” and the suspects passed off the jewelry to its occupant or occupants.

“We believe this a fairly sophisticated operation that’s running in a multi-state area,” Bergeron said.

Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy agrees.

He said it is a “good working theory” that the four suspects arrested last Thursday in Louisiana are connected to a recent string of five smash-and-grabs in Texas, which JSA warned jewelers about in its most recent alert.

The Texas smash-and-grabs happened in a span of less than two weeks and, like the Hammond robbery, some involved taking out showcases with sledgehammers.

According to JSA, the first took place Jan. 31 around 3 p.m. at a jewelry store in San Antonio. The second occurred a few days later in Texas City, a town about 250 miles to the east in the Houston metropolitan area.

On Feb. 6, three suspects allegedly hit another jewelry store in San Antonio, this time destroying showcases with a sledgehammer.

The fourth Texas smash-and-grab happened Feb. 9, JSA said, at a Houston jewelry store around 4 p.m.

About an hour later that same day, two men entered and robbed a jewelry store in nearby Sugar Land using a sledgehammer.

Bergeron said federal law enforcement and multiple city and state agencies are now looking into these robberies, and said he expects “a lot of people will [be brought] down,” as a result of the arrest in Baton Rouge.

The JSA has a list of recommendations for jewelers when it comes to smash-and-grab robberies.

It includes the following.

1. Don’t resist. In addition to sledgehammers and other potentially dangerous tools, the perpetrators could have guns.

2. Having showcases with burglary-resistant laminated glass and special frames can prevent and reduce large losses. Robbers will be unable to get into the showcase or will only be able to create a small hole, limiting the amount of merchandise they can take. Also, suspects frequently cut themselves while reaching into these small holes, leaving DNA behind.

3. Having audible glass breakage alarms on showcases can scare away smash-and-grab robbers. Most of them are trying to get out of the store in under a minute.

4. Hiring armed, off-duty police officers can be a deterrent, and having buzzers on the door can help keep out potential robbers as well.

5. Spreading out high-end watches and loose diamonds among several showcases can help reduce losses in the event of a smash-and-grab robbery.

TAGS:   Crime
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