Police are looking for suspects in a string of armed robberies at small stores in Howard County in the past week, including three at High's locations.
"It's not unusual for convenience stores to be robbed," said Sgt. Gary Gardner, Howard County police spokesman. "What is unusual is four robberies in the last six days."
The latest robbery occurred at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at a Wilde Lake High's store in the 5400 block of Lynx Lane.
Two men walked into the store and sauntered over to the lottery machine before displaying handguns and demanding cash from the registers, police said.
The clerk handed over an undisclosed amount of cash to the men and was then pushed to the ground behind the counter as they fled the store. No one was injured.
One of the men wore a white cloth over his face, police said.
The two suspects in the robbery of a Pizza Hut and two High's stores last Friday and Saturday matched descriptions given by witnesses.
And in two of the incidents the suspects were described as wearing white bandannas and white cloths over their faces.
The sporadic patronage of convenience stores like High's may account for why such stores have been targeted in the past, said a High's official.
Robbers "see a lot of opportunity," said Nancy Ervin, a High's area supervisor. Customers "aren't in our stores all the time, and that's why they hit."
"Other stores always have someone in them," she said.
Many other factors make convenience stores prime targets for robberies, Sgt. Gardner said.
Convenience stores that are open 24 hours afford would-be thieves the opportunity to strike at any time.
The location of the cash register and counter a few feet from the door provides robbers with an easy escape route, he added.
And the simple layout of the stores, unlike large grocery stores, permit suspects to scope out all potential problems in their scheme.
The first in the string of robberies occurred at 10:37 p.m. last Friday at Pizza Hut in Ellicott City. An hour later, two suspects matching the same description robbed an Owen Brown High's.
Saturday at 2 p.m. two men with similar descriptions robbed a High's in Ellicott City. No injuries were reported in any of these incidents, police said.
The first suspect involved in Wednesday's incident was described as an 18- to 21-year-old male, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, with a fair to medium complexion, weighing 140 to 150 pounds.
The second suspect was 18- to 21-years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a thin build, police said.
Witness descriptions in all four robberies and the methods of operation were similar, but police are not certain whether the robbers were the same in every incident.
Anyone with information on any of the robberies should contact Howard County police at 313-2266 or 313-2220.
Callers can also refer any information to the Metro Crime Stoppers Hot Line at 276-8888 and qualify for a reward of as much as $1,000 if the tip leads to an arrest or indictment.