A Manhattan store was hit Saturday morning, reportedly by a group of people of similar description, and managers say Duane Reades in the New York area have been targeted for several weeks, mostly on the weekends."There have been at least three or four every week," said one Queens manager, who had received a description of the suspects prior to last weekend and was on the alert for them. Managers at some of the targeted stores spoke on the condition that their names and store locations be withheld.A spokesman for Duane Reade Loss Prevention in Manhattan denied that any such incidents had occurred at the drug chain's stores in Queens and Manhattan.The Duane Reade at 57-11 Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood was targeted at 2:45 p.m. by three men and a woman who stole less than $1,000 worth of assorted medication and escaped in a gray vehicle, according to Sgt. Christine Dougherty, a Police Department spokeswoman.The incident was classified as petit larceny, not robbery, since no one was injured. A group matching the same description struck another Duane Reade a few blocks away at 54-13 Myrtle Ave. at 3 p.m. and stole more than $1,000 in assorted medication, which qualifies as grand larcency, the 104th Precinct said.A source at the store assessed the stolen merchandise at around $2,500. Reports have been filed with the 104th Precinct. "It's probably safe to say they're the same people," Dougherty said.A few hours earlier, thieves matching the same description reportedly shoplifted at the Duane Reade at 42-28 Main St. in Flushing, but the amount taken was not known. A report on the theft was filed with the 109th Precinct. The following day the Duane Reade at 76th Street and Broadway in Manhattan was the victim of a similar incident, according to sources within Duane Reade who also said the 20th Precinct was informed.Describing the tactics used by the foursome, one manager said the woman in the group sometimes checks out medicines in the aisles, while a man asks questions to keep the pharmacist busy. In one case, another man jumped over the pharmacy counter, grabbed diabetic testing equipment, and all three ran out of the store. A fourth man, who was at the front of the store, also ran, the manager said.The manager said that in general two cars wait outside the stores, and in some cases there are two more people involved in the incident - one in each of the cars outside. He said Duane Reade has told him that many other stores have been hit in the same way and in most instances the same type of merchandise was stolen.Another manager said the same group of people had come into his store the week before, but since he had their descriptions he began watching them as soon as they entered. When they realized they were being watched, they left the store only to return the following weekend when he was not on duty, he saidHe said that based on the security tapes he watched after the incident, they pretended to be waiting for prescriptions, then took merchandise and ran. Managers at all stores gave similar accounts."This is unfortunate, but we cannot disturb people," one manager said. "It could get worse if we try to stop them." All of the managers said Duane Reade Loss Prevention and the company's head office were aware of the problem, and the company had issued descriptions of the perpetrators to all of the stores. But Michael Knievel, vice president of Loss Prevention for the company, denied all knowledge of the incidents."I don't know anything about that," he said. He was asked about the police reports and statements from managers involved. "We are not experiencing a rash of robberies," he said. "I'm not going to give you anything about what goes on at Duane Reade."Reach intern Cassidy Knowlton by e-mail at news@times
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