Philadelphia-area police say they have not seen anything like the string of 19 “splash-and-grab” robberies in recent weeks, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. In each case, anywhere from one to three men in their 20s splashed hot coffee or hot cocoa – and, in one instance, bleach – in the face of a cashier before grabbing money from the till. Most of the targeted stores have been grocery and convenience stories, but a gasoline station also was hit.
“There’s definitely a serious concern in law enforcement in the tri-state area because of the nastiness of these jobs,” said Philadelphia police Capt. John Gallagher. “We’re very concerned that there could be serious injuries to any of the individuals who get splashed in the face with these hot liquids during the course of these robberies.” At least one cashier suffered third-degree burns. Police do not know if the thieves could be armed and might resort to a knife or gun if the splash-and-grab does not work. The takes have ranged from $50 to no more than $300, raising the possibility the thefts are being staged to pay for drugs.