Gunman forces employees to floor in Newton Dunkin’ Donuts robbery; at least 19 shops hit since March

A Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Newton was robbed Wednesday night by a man dressed in black who entered through the back door, forced employees to the ground at gunpoint, grabbed cash from the cash register, and escaped, Newton police said.

The robbery of the doughnut shop at 138 Needham St. marked at least the 19th time since March that a Dunkin’ Donuts has been robbed in Eastern Massachusetts, according to the company.

The Needham Street store was also robbed this July, police said.

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“We are actively working with other departments to see if this is related to the string of robberies that have occurred throughout the region,” said Newton Police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker.

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No one was hurt in the latest robbery, which happened at about 10:15 p.m. The man took cash from the register as well as cash kept in a box by the register, police said.

In addition to the Bay State robberies, a Dunkin’ store in Nashua, N.H., roughly 15 minutes north of the Massachusetts line, was held up in September. That would make a total of 20.

Authorities have been reluctant to say that all the robberies are connected, but Boston police have said that a string of five of robberies of three shops in West Roxbury between March and September are related.

The robberies have occurred in Westwood, West Roxbury, Walpole, Canton, Norton, Avon, Newton, North Attleboro, Plainville, Norwood, Easton, and Raynham, according to figures provided by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Some towns — including Newton, Westwod, West Roxbury, and Canton — have seen multiple robberies and, in some cases, the same restaurant has been robbed more than once.

Police said there have been some similarities between the cases, both in the descriptions of the suspect and the suspect’s methods.

Witnesses have described the suspect as standing around 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a slim or medium build. They have differed somewhat on his age, estimating it was between 19 and 30. The suspect has been described as a white or Hispanic male, wearing dark clothing and a mask.

All the robberies have happened on weekdays, and all but one of the robberies have occurred between 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

In every case, the suspect has brandished a gun or a knife, and he has frequently worn gloves. He has never harmed anyone, and he flees on foot and disappears, police said.

“It’s a fairly generic description,” said Nashua Police Lieutenant Denis Linehan. “The less that we can pick up on the physical description, it does make it a bit harder. We would like to see more of the face, for sure.”

Linehan said it’s hard to say why Dunkin’ Donuts has been targeted so aggressively, but said the proximity of the shops to highways or other quick means of escape could be possible. Six of the robbed Dunkin’ Donuts locations are either on or near a major thoroughfare.

He also said the suspect may be a former employee who now knows company security procedures, and is aware of what staffing levels are like during the evening shift.

“We had a series of Subway [restaurant chain] robberies,” Linehan said. “In that case, it happened to be a former employee who knew the ins and outs.”

Dunkin’ Donuts and Canton police increased their reward to $10,000 from $2,500 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect, according to Canton police, who are coordinating the investigation.

Dunkin’ shops are owned and operated by individual franchisees, who determine their own security procedures for their stores, said Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Donuts.

“In the wake of the recent robberies, Dunkin’ Brands sent safety and security best practices to all franchisees in the greater Boston area,” King said in an e-mail.