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String of robberies appear unrelated
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With 10 armed robberies in the past 30 days, local law enforcement officials are asking for the public's help at solving many of the seemingly unrelated crimes.

The latest robbery occurred Wednesday night at the Shell gas station located on the Covington Bypass.

Newton County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Watterson said a light skinned black man with cornrows entered the store at approximately 10:40 p.m. and pulled a gun on the clerk. The suspect was reportedly wearing a red shirt, blue jeans and a red bandana covering the bottom of his face.

The clerk handed the money over and the bandit exited the store. Watterson said the gun used was a semiautomatic pistol, possibly a 9mm, with laser sights.

"They're tearing us up," Watterson said. "We are just seeing an increase in armed robberies with no explanation as to why. We have no big leads so far. Everything we have gotten we've checked, and it hasn't led to much. This leads us to believe most of these guys are from out of town."

Watterson said there is no evidence that the unsolved robberies are directly related as none of the descriptions of the robbers match. There is also no evidence that any of robberies are copycat crimes.

"I can't remember another time when there were so many robberies in any given month," Watterson told the News.

The surge has led to increased participation in the East Side Metro Investigation Network by the NCSO and the Covington Police Department. At the meetings, Watterson said NCSO and CPD investigators are able to uncover trends around the area that they might not otherwise have been aware of.

The string of robberies began in DeKalb County late last year, Watterson said, and then moved south to Rockdale County earlier this year and finally to Newton County in the last month.

 The robberies have occurred in a seemingly random pattern. Six businesses have been hit including a bank, a grocery store, a restaurant and three gas stations. Four pedestrians have been robbed in three different incidents ranging from street muggings to motel room invasion.

Three different vehicles were also reportedly carjacked at gunpoint over the weekend by a group of Lithonia teenagers in Covington for a party.

The NCSO offers free training classes to any local business to help prevent robberies and steps to follow if one does occur. One of the main points the classes stress, Watterson said, was to have a video surveillance system in place and functioning properly. Surveillance systems need to be cleaned frequently to ensure the images the video captures are good enough to identify any potential robbers.

"These systems are often the last thing on store owners' minds, but they are really so important," Watterson said. "Every business really needs one."

If you have information about any of these crimes, please call the NCSO at (678) 625-1403 or the CPD at (770) 786-7605. Tips may also be given anonymously at (678) 625-5007 or on their Web site