Rash of Robberies Stuns Upper Valley

Carol Williams has worked on and off at Maplefields since 2008. Like other store clerks, she's more alert when she's on duty at night.

Dan Fraser didn’t think it would happen to him, but it did, and it only took about 45 seconds.

In that time, a robber dashed into his store in Norwich and dashed out, taking an undisclosed amount of cash. The robbery on Wednesday was the latest in the Upper Valley. Cumberland Farms in Wilder was robbed at 1 a.m. on Sunday and a Wilder Mobil Station was robbed on Tuesday. Police are still investigating if the three are related.

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The robbery at Dan and Whit’s sent a shockwave through the Upper Valley—that it could happen to any store, at any time.

Fraser didn’t think it would happen in a place like Norwich, a town of 3,400, close to the prestigious Dartmouth College, which has a town center with frequent pedestrian traffic.

Crime, in general, is low in Norwich. The last break-in Fraser remembers was in the 1980s when high school students stole cigarettes. Fraser had never been robbed before.

Dan and Whit’s, an iconic country store, closes at 9 p.m. and employees never work alone.

Police were stunned by how fast the robbery happened—it was over before other clerks realized what happened. They were surprised, also, by the timing. The robbery happened around 7:45 p.m., when other customers and clerks were in the area. 

"I’ve been here for 15 years and this is the only robbery that I can remember,” said Norwich Police Chief Douglas Robinson. “Hopefully, it’s the last."

Local police have upped presence and night coverage routines and have alerted storeowners—“be vigilant and safety-conscious,” said Robinson.

The robber at Dan and Whit's took the money from a teenager. Clerks who work the third-shift at nearby convenience stores are waiting, somewhat expectedly, for the same to happen to them.

Makayla Blanchard was on call the night Cumberland Farms in Wilder was robbed.

Blanchard works the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift by herself. 

"I didn’t think it would really occur here because of how small our town is. Everyone knows everyone here,” she said. 

Many clerks who work at night in the Upper Valley work alone and are compensated more.  Blanchard, 21, has been at Cumberland Farms a couple months. She said she loves her job and likes the quiet of working alone, but the recent crime is concerning to her and her family. 

Blanchard’s brother check in on her when she’s alone at night.

The robbery “baffled” Blanchard’s mother Sue-Ellen Parmenter.

“The crime rate has escalated in this area so much,” said Parmenter, mentioning the influx of heroin. “We’re in a whole new Vermont.” 

Cumberland Farms' corporate offices declined to comment on the robberies or company procedure related to robberies.

Blanchard said Cumberland Farms is locking the side door at night. Police have also been in the driveway all night, she said.

Store clerks in neighboring towns are also on alert.

“It’s put my senses up a little bit more—especially when they’re not regulars,”said Shawn Daniels who works alone from 8:30 p.m. tomidnight at Cumberland Farms in Woodstock.

Daniels has worked at Cumberland Farms for six months. He said nighttime police officers come every hour and do a sweep of the store.

“I have a pretty good rapport with the nighttime officers,” he said.

Carol Williams, who works at Maplefields until 8 p.m., expects her store will get robbed at some point.

She says she’s not afraid, though.

Robinson is working with Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten on investigations. The chiefs said there are commonalities between the robberies but have not disclosed if they are related. 
“It’s pretty coincidental,” said Robinson.

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