SM Mall robbery still puzzles probers

The National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) yesterday formed a task group to probe and run after the suspects behind in the daring robbery of a jewelry store inside the SM Mall in Bicutan, Taguig City last Sunday night.

Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome, NCRPO director, said his office has formed the “Task Group Hammer” to focus on resolving the robbery.

Bartolome said the suspects involved in the SM Mall may have been a “copycat” of a robbery gang that was active more than ten years ago.

“The modus operandi is similar to that of the original Martilyo Gang members that were caught and arrested by Parañaque police before,” he said.

Task Group Hammer will be headed by Senior Supt. Federico Castro, deputy director for operations of the Southern Police District (SPD), with the chief of Parañaque City Police and SPD investigation and crime lab chiefs as members.

Bartolome said that the NCRPO is now in the process of confirming the identity of the suspects behind the heist by matching the CCTV footage and rogue gallery of suspects with the same signature and modus operandi.

He added that the suspects also used an M26-A9 fragmentation type of grenade as a form of distraction while the suspects escaped along with their loot from the jewelry store inside the mall.

“Investigation will also determine the source of the grenade used, how it was brought inside the mall and who were responsible for it,” Bartolome said.

The PNP has been encouraging in the past, mall owners to invest in the use of more accurate and sophisticated or high-tech walk-through x-ray machines and metal detectors as added security measures.
Meanwhile, PNP spokesman, Senior Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., on Monday defended police actions during the robbery incident inside the mall, saying that the present security set-up has disallowed armed policemen to enter the malls.

“We have policemen that are just on the streets… in the vicinity of the mall, but it is strictly prohibited by mall security officers the entry of armed policemen inside the mall they are guarding,” Cruz said.

The PNP spokesman added that part of the investigation is to determine the possible liability of mall security in the said robbery incident where three mall-goers were hurt after one of the suspects hurled a grenade as a diversionary in their escape.

“We cannot also discount the possibility of connivance since supposed, those illegal things or item, grenades and guns are not allowed inside those kinds of establishments,” Cruz said. (Anthony Vargas)

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