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Five teens charged with smash and grab robbery at Waterloo mall


Five teen boys have been arrested after a jewelry store was robbed Thursday night in Waterloo.

Waterloo regional police were called to Conestoga Mall just after 8:30 p.m.

They were told a group of males, armed with hammers and a gun, went into a store and smashed display cases, stole jewelry and threatened staff members.

The five suspects then ran out of the store and got into a vehicle waiting outside the mall.

Police were able to quickly track down the vehicle as it was trying to leave the area.

They said the driver refused to stop, hit a curb and broke the vehicle’s axle.

The five suspects then jumped out of the vehicle and tried to run away.

Officers, with the help of a WRPS canine unit, chased the teens. They were eventually arrested a few blocks away near Frobisher Drive.

Police said they were a 13-year-old and 16-year-old from Waterloo Region, while the other three, who range in age from 15 to 17, were from Toronto.

“We're concerned, as a community, about the ages of the youth involved,” said Shaena Morris, the superintendent of the investigative services division for Waterloo regional police. “We're seeing more and more activity like this in our region, and actually, across the province. Quite frankly, a lot of it is related to street-level organized crime where criminals are using youth to insulate themselves from prosecution.”

Organizations who work with youths have noticed a similar trend.

“We see that teens are often exploited because the vulnerable place they are in,” explained Kathryn Barratt from the John Howard Society of Waterloo-Wellington.

Last year, the organization received about 900 referrals from law enforcement.

“We have seen an uptick in referrals, in terms of weapons use,” Barratt said. “That’s why we created the weapons diversion program.”

All of the suspects are facing charges including robbery with a firearm and possession over $5,000.

Police also discovered the vehicle used by the teens was stolen from the Toronto area earlier this month. The vehicle and a loaded gun were seized.

No injuries were reported during the robbery.

Waterloo regional police at King St. N. and Northland Rd. as they investigate a robbery. (Courtesy: Fawwaz Ali)

More jewelry store robberies

Thursday’s incident was just the latest in a string of jewelry store robberies in and around Waterloo Region.

On Oct. 31, multiple people hopped the counter at Lola Jewellers at Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. The sole employee who was working at the time told CTV News they grabbed merchandise before leaving.

The mall was also targeted on Nov. 25. Police said three males entered an unnamed store. Two of them were carrying axes, while another had a gun. Police said they smashed display cases and stole merchandise before fleeing in a vehicle.

On Jan. 3, four males robbed the Paris Jewellers store at the Stratford Mall. Police released video of the incident, which showed the suspects smashing glass display cases and grabbing fistfuls of jewelry. They said from start to finish, the thieves were in the store for less than minute. The jewelry stolen was initially estimated to be worth $100,000. Less than a week later, on Jan. 9, two 21-year-olds were arrested in Niagara Falls after police noticed the vehicle they were in had stolen license plates. Officers found a loaded gun and jewelry, valued at $135,000, during a subsequent search. Two others are still wanted for the Stratford Mall robbery.

Waterloo regional police were called once again to Fairview Park Mall on Jan. 8. Three males walked into an unnamed store with hammers and pepper spray around 8:20 p.m. They smashed display cases, stole an undisclosed amount of jewelry, and took off in an SUV.

“Year-to-date we’ve had about 250 robberies total,” WRPS Chief Mark Crowell told CTV News in late December. “This is above the five-year trend that we’ve been seeing. To break it down, there’s commercial robberies that occur in places of business, so convenience stores, jewelry stores, pharmacies, phone locations, things like that, that are very dramatic and traumatic for those involved. And then the other half are those person-on-person robberies, theft with violence, often with a weapon. We have a dedicated robbery team that supports our other investigative teams focusing on prolific offenders, those who are known to be involved with these incidents or organized crime networks as well. So we are doing everything we can.” Top Stories

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