Anchorage police are seeking suspects who committed a trio of armed robberies late Thursday, aiming guns at women and threatening to kill them.
No shots were fired and no injuries were reported in any of the three robberies, according to Lt. John McKinnon, head of the Anchorage Police Department's homicide and robbery/assault units. No suspects were in custody as of Friday afternoon.
"It's really disturbing that someone would be targeting females," McKinnon said.
According to APD statements issued early Friday, the robberies took place in different locations around Anchorage. McKinnon said no further crimes matching the same methods were reported Friday morning.
"It is possible that these robberies were committed by the same suspects, generally described as two or three young black males," police wrote. "The common circumstances in these cases were that the female victim was alone, in a car or walking, and was approached by the males, who had guns and demanded the victim's purse or cellphone before fleeing on foot to a vehicle."
Police asked locals to be especially vigilant when out during late-night hours, and to "report any suspicious circumstances."
The first of Thursday's three robberies was reported at 6:34 p.m. near 17th Avenue and Karluk Street, where the victim said she had been sitting in her vehicle when two armed black males walked up on either side of it.
"The second male opened the passenger-side door and got in the vehicle with her, and pressed the handgun against her head," McKinnon said. "They told her to get out of the vehicle or they were going to kill her; they grabbed her purse and her car keys, and they fled on foot."
The suspects headed west and got into a dark-colored sedan shortly afterward, McKinnon said.
Nearly three hours later, at 9:21 p.m., a second woman reported a similar robbery on the 9700 block of Morningside Loop, off the Old Seward Highway south of Dimond Boulevard.
"The victim was in her car — she actually had a 1-year-old juvenile in the car," McKinnon said. "Two black male juveniles approached the car on foot, opened the door and pointed a gun at her, saying they would kill her."
After taking the woman's purse, McKinnon said the suspects were seen getting into a dark-colored sedan.
The third robbery, reported at 10:22 p.m., took place on the 6600 block of Fairweather Drive, off Old Seward south of Dowling Road. McKinnon said the victim told police she'd been walking to her car when a dark-colored sedan slowly drove past her and two black males got out, walked toward her and grabbed her purse.
"One male pointed a gun at her, while the other male went through her purse and took her car keys and her phone," McKinnon said. "They demanded the passcode from her for her phone."
Afterward, they got back into the sedan and left.
McKinnon said several officers responded to each of the robbery calls but police were never in hot pursuit of the suspects.
"If we were chasing them on foot we would have sent more response, but this was more of a follow-up," McKinnon said.
Each of the cases was assigned to a detective for additional investigation over the weekend. McKinnon said he couldn't recall any similar strings of local robberies in recent memory.
"This particular MO is new, although I can tell you that it seems like these kind of events are on the rise," McKinnon said.
Police have tracked an increase in robberies occurring in public space – meaning, not at the victim's home or a commercial business – from 264 in 2015 to 319 in 2016.
Investigators are still working to identify the suspects from Thursday's robberies. McKinnon reiterated the initial advice from police to report any suspicious circumstances, as well as to submit tips on the suspects.
"That means anything," McKinnon said. "People are never bothering us if they call, and we appreciate it if they call – because then we catch these guys."
APD can be reached by phone at 907-786-8900; Anchorage Crime Stoppers can also take anonymous tips on the robberies at 907-561-STOP or through its website anchoragecrimestoppers.com.