An especially volatile, aggressive, type of crime known as “armed takeovers” have contributed to the Houston area’s becoming the national leader in commercial robberies, the Houston Chronicle reports. More than 1,400 businesses across the city were robbed last year, and many dozens involved such takeovers. Federal investigators said the 22 suspects arrested recently belong to at least five separate but similar groups that preyed on banks, pawn shops, cell phones stores and other businesses here from 2013 to 2015. The robberies were particularly violent and terrifying. Attackers put guns to the back of the heads of store managers or other employees, with hammers cocked as motivation to obey commands.
The FBI’s Shauna Dunlap said such crews use fear and force to take over their targets. “If you happen to be making a deposit or getting a new battery for your cell phone, you are caught in the middle. These types of robberies each tell a horrific story,” she said. “There are more individuals at risk in this style of robbery, definitely the most aggressive type robbery we can see.” The roundup includes several defendants described by authorities as “habitual, violent serial offenders” who have been in and out of the state justice system. Federal charges can bring a hefty punishment for repeatedly using a gun in a crime of violence, and there is no parole from federal prison.