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Ronkonkoma Subway Shop Latest Target In String Of Knifepoint Robberies On LI, Police Say

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Police are investigating yet another knifepoint robbery on Long Island after police said a sandwich shop was targeted in Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County.

Police said a man armed with a knife walked into the Subway shop on Portion Road Tuesday night and demanded cash. An employee pressed an emergency alarm and the suspect ran off before police could apprehend him, CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

Investigators believe it's the same suspect who is wanted for other robberies in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

He's struck 15 times since February, robbing chain stores like Carvel, Subway, TCBY and Dunkin' Donuts, while carrying a machete or a knife. 

"He's also altered the pattern and gone into a store called 'The Barn' and GameStop, so these stores are very ubiquitous in Nassau, Suffolk counties," Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said. "...He's also coming in masked and gloved and it's almost entirely covering up his body, which doesn't give us a lot of leads on physical description."

"As far as frustration goes, we try to solve every one and we would like nothing better than to have a successful conclusion to this investigation," said Suffolk County police Sgt. James Madden.

Andrew Liu's Carvel store in Westbury was robbed on March 27.

"It's kind of frightening but considering it's been going on, I kind of suspected something might happen," Liu said. "I was hoping it wouldn't."

Barbara Saladino's ice cream shop in Ronkonkoma was also held up at knifepoint earlier this month.

"He's coming in to do bad things. You don't know how you're going to react and it's just a horrible situation," she said. "We want it to go away."

The robber usually strikes when the cash register is full and the crowds are gone, right before closing time, Doris reported.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria he's considering whether to let the U.S. Attorney's office handle the case, rather than the District Attorney.

"When you rob a commercial establishment, typically it's going to qualify as something that's called a Hobbs Act robbery, and the penalties for Hobbs Act robberies are stiff under federal law," he said. "So it's a really good way to bring the hammer to someone who's committing crimes like this."

Sini said the robber is bold, desperate for money and likely a drug addict, D'Auria reported. 

As police continue their search for the man responsible, they are asking store clerks not to be heroic. If the suspect walks in, give him what he wants.

"I work during the mornings, so it's not like there's a ton of cash in the drawer -- we don't do that much business during the mornings," one employee told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall. "So I'm not scared to be here during the day, it's more at night your worry about."

"You don't challenge these individuals," said Sini. "Let us do our job. The best thing you can do for law enforcement at this moment is be as observant as possible."

Other shop employees are fearful they could be next.

"Come on cops, you gotta get on it, you're supposed to protect and serve and it's a little scary now that it's across the street," said Christine Meyers, an employee at Strathmore Bagels.

No store clerks have been injured in any of the robberies.

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