Robbers Target Check Cashing Stores

Money Now is just one of a number of check cashing stores popping up all across the coast. And now, it's become one of the statistics.

"The last several months, we've seen an increase in the crimes of check cashing stores, finance companies, this type of thing," said Pat Pope, the chief of detectives at the Gulfport Police Department. "They do seem to be on the increase."

Just two months ago, right next door to Money Now, a man walked into a computer store and pointed a gun at the owner. A customer scared him off before he got any money. Still, it served as a wake up call.

"Usually you see banks being held up, not just a little store that doesn't have very much money in it," said Kim Caldwell, the computer store owner.

But they are being held up more frequently, perhaps because robbers think that these small stores have less security.

"There's a perception that these places are easier targets and because of that, the businesses are realizing that they are more of a target. We're taking steps to help them be less of a target," Pope said.

"Within the next 30 days, we will definitely purchase outside cameras as well as inside cameras, maybe get a better alarm system on the building itself as well," Caldwell said.

Southern Finance also learned the hard way. It now has video cameras inside. It did not just last month, when a man walked in, pulled out a gun, and a tied up a female employee before escaping with cash.

Police suspect 23-year-old Jerodd Coleman, but so far they can't find him.

"He may be related to some of the others, we don't know right now, that's something we're looking into," Pope said.

Whether or not he's connected, Gulfport police say they will start a campaign to inform business owners about what they should be doing to stay safe.