Employees reluctant to report illegal dispensary robberies, authorities say

SPRING VALLEY, Calif.  - At least two armed men raided an illegal marijuana dispensary, disarmed a security guard, ordered the employees to the ground and made off with marijuana products in what authorities said Friday was the latest in a growing number of take-over style armed robberies at illegal dispensaries in the Spring Valley area.

The holdup was reported by a passerby, not the victims, about 8:50 p.m. Thursday in the 3600 block of Bancroft Drive, San Diego County sheriff's Sgt. Kotaro Murashige said.

"As expected, no one associated with the dispensary called law enforcement to report the incident," Murashige said. "The reluctance by the staff to summon for help has created a dangerous environment, not only for dispensary staff members, but the public that patronize the facility."

Once deputies determined the scene was safe -- a task Murashige said was delayed because the victims did not immediately report the crime -- they determined at least two armed men had forced their way into the dispensary and disarmed a security guard, the sergeant said. They ordered employees to the ground and made off with marijuana products, but it was unknown if they also took cash.

No description was available of the suspects or their vehicle.

The heist was the latest in a series of armed take-over style robberies investigated by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Rancho San Diego substation, Murashige said.

"In each case, armed guards were not a deterrent, the suspects were all armed (and) dispensary staff members failed to call for help even after people were physically assaulted," the sergeant said. "In some cases the staff members refused to allow law enforcement to enter, causing a stand-off situation that stretched the department's resources in helping victims."

The suspects in Thursday's robbery are still at-large, Murashige said. They should be considered armed and dangerous.