RIGA - The smash-and-grab crime spree that has plagued Latvia's cities in recent weeks is turning into an epidemic. In the most recent incident, four masked thieves in two stolen cars crashed into a Supernetto discount store in the central Latvian city of Jelgava and made off with a safe and jewelry around 4 a.m. on August 21, according to the State Police.
The robbers left the store in a third car, leaving the first two behind. Jelgava police department representative Ieva Sietniece said that the two cars, a Volkswagen and a Nissan, had been stolen Aug. 19 from Ozolnieki, near Jelgava.
Criminal investigations have been launched. The value of the pilfered jewelry is still being estimated.
Rimi Latvia, owner of the Supernetto discount outlets, reported that all goods are insured and the damages incurred by the store were broken doors and windows.
Car-smash burglaries are becoming fashionable, a phenomenon that police attribute to the deteriorating economic situation. Similar robberies occurred May 14 at Maxima and July 10 at Galerija Centrs, both in Riga. Robbers have broken through windows with cars or axes, among other methods.
Police are concerned about the quality of work from security companies. Since the spring, robberies have been committed regularly at sales outlets and offices in Riga.
In Daugavpils on July 10, an unknown assailant smashed a jewelry store window and stole several gold and diamond rings before fleeing on foot. A saleswoman unsuccessfully attempted to catch him. Witnesses on SWH radio reported that a nearby accomplice had a getaway car and a balloon filled with gas, which the accomplice sprayed on the saleswoman.
An armed robbery also occurred Aug. 25 at the Narvesen convenience store in Riga's railway terminal, when a Russian-speaking assailant made off with 8,000 lats (11,383 euros) that had been waiting for the collectors. This crime, committed during daylight hours, is seen as a bolder move by robbers, who usually work during the night.
Despite the increase in robberies, police are active in catching the perpetrators and have recently arrested a drug gang on the suspicion of eight robberies. A number of people suspected of organized theft from sales outlets are being held by police.