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Aggravated Robbery Number Rises Slightly in 2012

Wichita Falls police are releasing the number of aggravated robberies that occurred in the city last year, those during which a person is in fear of death or serious bodily injury during the robbery, and more often that not, involve a weapon.
    Police are not happy that aggravated robbery numbers rose last year, but it was only by a small amount, and much less that the increase in 2011.
    Sergeant John Spragins, PIO with the Wichita Falls Police Department, says, "We received 73 reported aggravated robberies.  Now, some of these cases were actually classified differently."
    In 2010, there were 61 aggravated robberies in Wichita Falls.
    That number increased to 72 in 2011.
    "You can see from the different arrests and suspects that we have from over the past year there's male, there's female, there's young, there's older," he says.
    And a trend in robberies continued last year: the use of  fake or toy weapons.
    "They may think, 'Well, if I do get caught, it's just a fake gun and maybe it won't enhance the charge or anything like that,'" Spragins says.
    One example from last year: Matthew Gregory was arrested and charged with robbery.
    Police say Gregory pulled up to the drive thru window at the Pizza Hut on 5th St., crawled partially into the window, and tried to grab money from inside.
    Arrest records state the employee noticed he had a toy ray gun.
    Spragins says even fake weapons can cause others to be in fear of their life, which is why aggravated robbery  charges are still filed.
    "If law enforcement comes into contact with someone with these type of toy hand guns that look as real as they do, you have the potential for deadly conduct there," Spragins says.
    And several suspects, like Czarski Barnes, were charged with committing multiple aggravated robberies in the city.
    Police believe he's responsible for at least two armed robberies, including the robbery of The Cash Store on Sheppard Access Rd.
    "In my experience in law enforcement, eventually everyone gets caught," Spragins says.
    Police say a large percentage of robberies occur when people get in financial binds because of drugs, or are just looking for a quick way to come up with money to buy drugs.
    If local businesses want to reduce their risks of being robbed in the coming year, Wichita Falls police offer the Crime Free Business Program to teach owners how to make their businesses safer.
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