HOUSTON - A crew of three or four men have robbed at least eight pawn shops in the Houston area since January, according to the Houston Police Department.
The group has stolen more than half million dollars' worth of jewelry.
"I hate to say it, but they've gotten better at their craft as they've gone on," Robert Elder, regional investigator for Cash America, said.
In some of the crimes, one of the men appeared to physically prevent customers from leaving the store during the incident.
Police said so far nobody has been injured.
"They've got a system: One guy smashes, one guy grabs, one watches the door," Elder said.
He said the crooks do not hit consistently at a certain time of day, nor do they seem to prefer a specific day of the week.
The Houston Police Department is investigating the bulk of the crimes.
"We believe there's actually a fourth guy that's actually waiting in the vehicle," Detective Greg Shelton said.
Shelton said the crooks have used a variety of cars, including a 2003-2005 Gold Buick Century.
"They're quick, and they're pretty good," Shelton said.
But they're not perfect; the man guarding the door may be identifiable from surveillance video. Police have other clues, too, that they haven't revealed publicly.
The locations and dates of the crimes:
8816 Jensen (Jan. 8)
3940 Aldine Mail Route (Jan. 12)
1100 E FM 1960 Bypass (Feb. 3)
914 Federal (Feb. 27)
2120 Little York (March 23)
803 Uvalde (April 10)
76 E. Crosstimbers (April 30)
910 E. Tidwell (May 19)
Anyone with information about the suspects identities is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-8477. Anonymous tips could earn callers up to a $5,000 reward.
"I think I know how our employees are going to act, but a customer may intercede at some point and I don't know what these guys are going to do," Elder said.
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