Monday, May 27, 2024

Bethesda business owner pleads for more police presence after consecutive armed robberies

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A Bethesda business owner is requesting more police presence in the area after he said his store was targeted in two armed robberies in two days.

Ajay Aggarwal of Geste Wine & Food said his store, located on Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda, has been in the area for 14 years. Most of the customers are regulars, Aggarwal said.

He shared surveillance video from Monday evening around 7:15 p.m. with FOX 5. 

It showed a man wearing a hoodie and a mask. Initially, Aggarwal said his cashier assumed it was another customer. 

The man was reportedly asking about vapes when he pulled out a gun.

“I have told all of my employees, just run away. If you see a weapon, do not engage with that person. So he [the cashier] ran out the back way,” Aggarwal said. “Money is something I can replace. I’m more concerned about their lives.”

On Tuesday evening, the same thing happened again. This time, the cashier ran out the front door. 

Aggarwal said between both days combined, his store was robbed of about $1,200.

Aggarwal said he believes it’s the same person committing the robberies on both nights, but police have not confirmed this.

“You do have kids coming in, grabbing a bottle of wine, but that’s not robbery. That’s their stupidity. So, we just let it go,” he said. “Those guys can come in and steal and whatever they do, but guns are not acceptable. No, definitely not.”

Aggarwal said police arrived within 10 minutes of the incidents. The shop typically closes at midnight, but he said the police recommended he close a little earlier after the most recent robbery.

“Around 8 p.m., they told me to close the shop. I said, look the guy’s already stolen my money. If I close the business, it’s going to hurt me a lot. I have to pay the rent, feed my family,” he said. “I mean, I cannot afford to do it. But they made me close the shop.”

Closing early every night isn’t sustainable, he said. Instead, he would like to see more police monitoring the area.

“They cannot man every door. We know that,” he said. “I think the police can be a little more helpful. Making a business shut down is not the point. The point is, they told me yesterday … They cannot guarantee my safety. But I do expect my safety to be guaranteed by the police.”

Cordell Pugh lives nearby and visits the Bethesda area about three to four times a week. He said while he thinks more police could potentially help with crime, he also understands if the need is greater in other parts of Montgomery County.

“I can see both sides. It’s a balancing act between the prevention and the response side,” Pugh said. “I do hope the business owners and police leaders can continue to collaborate around programs like the security cameras.”

A spokesperson for Montgomery County police said as of Wednesday, they did not have any suspects in custody. As for the request for more police in the area, a spokesperson did not directly respond to FOX 5’s question about whether those plans are being considered.

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