By: Mike Anderson

York Regional Police are searching for a thief who committed a series of break-ins in Sutton during the early morning hours on Saturday, January 11.

According to one store manager, the thief is described as a white male with a goatee, thin build, between 5’ 10” and 5’ 11.” He was wearing a black hoodie, blue jeans, and black and white basketball shoes.

In just over two hours, the thief broke into four stores: Black River Coffee, Elio Ristorante, Stretch Thrift Outlet, and the Esso gas station on Hwy-48.

Most of the break-ins were completed in less than a minute after triggering alarms. According to video surveillance footage, he acted alone and casually walked to and from each store he robbed, a total of some two kilometres.

At each store, he grabbed the cash till, later discarding it outside after pocketing the money. In most cases, there was little or no cash in the till. However, this didn’t stop him from committing considerable property damage to all four local businesses, including smashing four glass entry doors.

Smashed entry glass at Elio Ristorante
Thief enters Elio Ristorante
Thief steals cash till from Elio Ristorante

The first break-in occurred at Black River Coffee, 126 High St., at approximately 12:30 a.m.. The thief smashed the side door with a cinder block, and grabbed the cash register from the counter. There was a $100 float in the cash tray. Police later recovered the empty cash register on the river ice behind the store.

Owner Elaine Coates was not aware of the break-in until she arrived to open the cafe at 5 a.m.. She estimates the damage to be approximately $2000. Her insurance deductible is about $1000, so she will have to absorb most of the loss herself.

Ms. Coates says this was the first time her business was robbed, and she credits her customers with helping her get through it.

“I think I would have felt more violated and more alone, if it wasn’t for my customers. One guy brought his Shop-Vac. Another two guys cut the plywood for the door outside in the rain. In half-an-hour, everything was cleaned-up. They were amazing.”

Elio Ristorante, at 106 High St., was also targeted.

The thief heaved a large rock through the front door with so much force that it also shattered an interior glass partition and damaged the wall behind.

Mr. Riccelli holds rock thief threw through glass entry door

He then grabbed the cash drawer before bolting out the door. Owner Elio Riccelli says only $23 was stolen. However, he estimates the damage to be in the range of $2,500 to $3,000. Again, like the other owners, he will be out of pocket as his insurance deductible is approximately $2500. Mr. Riccelli was also forced to close both Saturday and Sunday, his two busiest days of the week.

Mr. Riccelli says he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the extent of the damage.

“When I came in, and I saw two police cars outside and my door shattered, I panicked. It was like someone stabbed you in the heart. These people who get robbed at home, I know how they feel.”

The thief also walked to the Stretch Thrift Outlet on Hwy-48, entering the store at approximately 1:36 a.m..

According to Tammy Lake, the store’s manager, the thief waited for traffic on Hwy-48 to pass-by before throwing a brick through the front door, shattering the glass to the back wall. The video surveillance shows him jumping over the counter and opening a wooden box that contained nothing of value. He then grabbed the cash till and left. He was only in the store for less than a minute.

Ms. Lake says they don’t keep money in the till overnight. So, the thief left empty-handed. The damage to the front door is approximately $500 for the glass repair; however, the insurance deductible is higher than the claim — so the store will be out of pocket for repairs.

“It almost makes you angry because who would break-in to a thrift store that’s only here to help people,” says Ms. Lake. “I don’t understand. What are you going to get out of a thrift store?”

Besides adding a few more cameras, Ms. Lake says there isn’t much else they can do to discourage a potential thief. “The only thing we could do differently is put bars on the windows. But we don’t want to deter people from shopping here. It scares people.”

After the thrift outlet, the thief walked a short distance to the Esso gas station, on the south side of Hwy-48. There he used a concrete slab he found outside to smash the glass entry door. According to Manager Afreen Hafiz, the alarm company contacted her at 2 a.m.. At first, she thought it was a false alarm. But when she checked the video cameras, she could see that the glass door had been shattered and the cash till was gone.

“He smashed the door, jumped over the counter and tried to open the till. When he couldn’t, he just ripped apart all the cables and took the till and several packs of cigarettes, whatever he could shove in his pocket,” says Ms. Hafiz. “He knew where our stuff was in the store. He’s been here before.”

Ms. Hafiz says, due to a high insurance deductible, she’ll have to pay most of the damages herself. And, that’s going to be hard, as January and February are typically slow months.

“We are a very small business. We hope to earn money through convenience store sales. There’s no money in gas, its to bring people in and hopefully, we earn something. So when something like this happens, it affects us quite a bit.”

York Regional Police would like to speak to anyone who may have been driving through the area at the time of these entries; who might have seen anything or have dash-cam footage. Also, York Regional Police reminds all businesses to remain vigilant in removing cash or negotiables after closing and to contact York Regional Police #3 District Crime Prevention Officer for free crime prevention tips and analysis of their respective business.  The Crime Prevention Officer can be reached at (905) 830-0303 x7308.

If you have information about this crime, but wish to remain anonymous please contact Crime Stoppers of York Region at: 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or text TIPYORK and your message to CRIMES (274637) or leave a tip online at 1800222tips.com

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