NEWPORT — Police are trying to determine whether the same man is responsible for two robberies of a local Rite Aid, spaced exactly one month apart.

The company has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the September case. The Rite Aid, located at the intersection of routes 100 and 2, was robbed on Thursday, Aug. 16, and again on Sunday, Sept. 16.

In both cases, a white male wearing sunglasses made off with an undisclosed amount of drugs.

“There are certain similarities in the descriptions,” police Lt. Randy Wing said Monday. “At this time, we’re not ruling out the possibility that they’re related. We’re trying to analyze surveillance footage of both to do a comparison of the subjects.”

The suspect in Sunday’s robbery was described by police as six feet tall, in his 20s, medium build and “sporting scruffy beard growth.” He was wearing dark jeans, a black pullover sweatshirt with bright colored graphics on the front and wraparound sunglasses.

About 2:05 p.m., the man displayed no weapon but presented a note demanding narcotics to the pharmacist, who gave him an undisclosed amount of drugs. No one was hurt in the incident.

The man ran from the scene; Wing said a witness may have seen him getting into a silver new-model GM car in a large dirt parking lot for State Farm Insurance on Route 2.  

Wing asked that anyone who was in the immediate area at the time, or anyone with information about the incident or the suspect, call the Newport Police Department at 368-3263. He said that callers can remain anonymous if they wish to do so.

The $5,000 reward, offered by Rite Aid for information leading to an arrest in the case, is not an unusual move for the company, said spokesperson Ashley Flower. She said that the company decides whether to offer a reward on a case-by-case basis.

“We continue to invest millions of dollars in security measures,” she said. “We believe in a safe environment for our associated and customers.”

Flowers declined to discuss the specific security measures to prevent undermining their effectiveness.
Wing said that rising numbers of pharmacy robberies are a major concern for law enforcement.

“Five to 10 years ago, I don’t think they really existed here,” he said, “It’s been a huge problem in recent years.”

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said that this is the 38th pharmacy robbery for the year, as compared to 24 pharmacy robberies during all of 2011.