Foodworks in Lake Albert was held up by a shotgun wielding bandit yesterday morning in the latest string of armed robberies across Wagga, which police reveal are likely linked.
In a matter of just five days, a service station, a vulnerable resident and two shopping precincts have been targeted.
In a horrifying twist to a shift, an employee at the Hammond Avenue Caltex was threatened with a shotgun during an armed robbery early in the morning on December 4.
Three days later, a 70-year-old woman was robbed at knifepoint about 7am, on December 7, in the underground car park at the Wagga Marketplace.
Then, on Monday about 6am, the Foodworks store at the Lake Village shopping centre was robbed by two men who entered the store brandishing a shotgun.
According to police, three offenders fled the scene with cigarettes and cash in a stolen white Jeep Cherokee.
Riverina Police District Detective Inspector Adrian Telfer said there are a number of consistencies in the way these three crimes have been committed.
"Cars that are stolen are often consistently involved in other offences around town," Inspector Telfer said.
"We tend to keep an open mind to everything that we do here ... and that's why we've got an investigator attached to both jobs, so we don't miss any information.
"When they happen over a number of times in the space of a week, it's fairly reasonable for us to conclude that it is the same people responsible."
It is believed the offenders are male and aged between 15 and 25 years old.
Lake Albert Foodworks manager Bailey Porter said staff did "everything they should have done" in handing over money to robbers at gunpoint.
"They're very shaken and I think they will take some time to get over it but we are taking all steps to help them out as well," she said.
"You never want your staff to have to go through this, but to us we don't care about the cash or the cigarettes; we're just glad our staff are OK."
Ms Porter said the incident was over within three minutes but the store had "very good CCTV" and had handed the footage over to police.
Inspector Telfer said in light of the recent crime spree, there will be more patrols within the shopping centre precincts.
The weekend's incident came just nine days after a 92-year-old woman was carjacked in the Marketplace car park on November 28.
A Wagga Marketplace spokesperson said the safety of customers remains the centre's top priority.
"The Marketplace has made substantial investment into CCTV infrastructure, with a large number of cameras installed throughout the interiors, car park and external property," the spokesperson said.
"We are constantly reviewing ways to improve security and in line with our security strategy, we have deployed additional resources in light of recent events in the area."
However, member of the Crime Prevention Committee Working Group, Kat van der Wijingaart said the Marketplace needs to take greater responsibility as they are "no strangers" to criminal activity.
"I was sexually assaulted in the car park 15 years ago ... because there was no CCTV, the perpetrators have never been found," she said.
"The issue of safety concerns and security concerns in that area have been around for more than 15 years.
"I really do think that it's time the Marketplace took a little more responsibility and installed more CCTV so that their customers can feel safe utitlising their facilities."
Mrs van der Wijingaart said these string of robberies emphasise the city's crime problem, which could have a devastating effect on the local economy if the public becomes too scared to use one of two major shopping centres.
"These are brazen attacks on the elderly ... it's not that there's no one else around," she said.
"It just really goes to show what a problem we have and it just enforces the community's fear that nowhere is safe."
But, Inspector Telfer said the district is using every resource available to identify and apprehend those responsible.
"We're very well aware where the crime is occurring and obviously we're a intelligent based organisation and so if we have information, that's where we are," he said.