Employees and business owners in British Columbia have been left terrified for their lives after armed robbers targeting cell phone stores threatened staff with machetes, handguns and tasers.
Surveillance video captured the series of three broad-daylight robberies in a matter of weeks at different Wireless World stores in Surrey, B.C. An employee of one of the stores said the robbers tied him up before stealing away with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
"The gun never left their hand," Jaswal told CTV News in Canada. "It was always on the back of my head. He told me, 'Hey, don't make any sudden moves or you're going to get popped in the head.'"
Rob Riah, the owner of the three stores, which are among two dozen Wireless World locations in British Columbia and Alberta, said $70,000 worth of merchandise has been stolen so far from his Surrey stores.
"We've been robbed three times in two weeks," Riah said. "I'm worried for my staff, I'm worried for my customers. Something needs to be done."
The robbers have since been selling the cell phones on Craigslist and Ebay, where unsuspecting buyers could be purchasing stolen items, Riah said, adding that the store generally blocks the IMEIs (equipment identity number) within a few days so that the phone is unusable.
By then, the thieves are usually far away and the victims are left out of pocket, Riah said.
The Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police could not immediately be reached on Sunday, but told CTV they had received several tips in their investigations and that the robberies were a "top priority."
Meanwhile, Riah offered a $5,000 reward for anyone able to identify the suspects in the footage, while his employees said they are seeking greater support from government and police in fighting violent crime.
"I don't think anybody's going to do anything until someone does get killed," Jaswal said. "They're not using little toy guns. They're using Tasers, they're using real guns. We don't know what they're going to do."