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Salisbury Police provide holiday safe shopping tips after woman robs people at knifepoint

SALISBURY — After the recent arrest of a Salisbury woman charged with robbing people at knifepoint in a local parking lot, the Salisbury Police Department advised residents to be aware of their surroundings as they shop for the holidays.

Police say Wanda Patricia Whitaker, 50, robbed two people and tried to rob another one in and around the YMCA parking lot early Thursday morning. Whitaker is charged with two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon.

The Police Department said Whitaker approached the victims with a large knife in her hand and demanded money.

The first robbery happened about 6:20 a.m. Thursday inside a laundromat on West Jake Alexander Boulevard. The victim told police that a black woman demanded all her money.

The victim gave the robber her money, including a bag of quarters. The robber told the woman to go to the restroom and wait. The woman stayed there for a few minutes then came out.

A second victim told police that a black woman approached her car and told her to roll the window down, which she did. The woman said the robber grabbed her by the shirt and put a knife next to her. The victim gave the robber her wallet, but then returned it because it was empty. The robber told the victim she would cut her, then told her to leave.

Police say Whitaker approached a third victim, grabbed him by the shirt and pointed the knife at him. He turned and ran inside the YMCA.

The victims gave police a description of the robber, a license plate number and a description of her car.

Whitaker remains in the Rowan County Detention Center under a $25,000 secured bond.

Police Capt. Shelia Lingle advises shoppers or anyone traveling outdoors after dark to be aware of their surroundings.

“If you see something in the parking lot that looks strange, walk back in or let someone walk you out,” Lingle said.

Shoppers who are walking outside from a store should have their keys in hand before leaving the store. Lingle said thieves are looking for people who are preoccupied or loaded down with packages and otherwise vulnerable.

“When you walk out of the store, look around and make eye contact with people,” she said.

While shopping in the store, Lingle recommends that shoppers not leave their purses in unattended shopping carts and not leave them open or unzipped. Even better, Lingle said, would be to not carry a large purse.

People who plan to do a lot of shopping should not leave packages visible in their car but should put them in the trunk, Lingle said.

She also suggests parking in a well-lit area and keeping doors locked and windows rolled up when traveling. Don’t roll down a window to talk to a stranger, she said.

Lingle said whether shopping during the day or at night, don’t shop alone.

She also recommends that women and men not wear expensive jewelry while shopping.

“Stay alert, avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep the cash in their front pocket,” she suggested.

Anyone who is approached by a robber should give the thief what he wants.

“If somebody has a weapon, you can replace things. Give it to them,” she said.

“We all want to have a safe and good holiday. We want everybody to be safe,” she said of the Police Department.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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