Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 5, 2013

Robbery an unfortunate wake-up call

The Andover Townsman

---- — An expectation of safety and carefree comfort has long existed in Andover. Most people don’t think twice about walking around alone in town, especially in areas that aren’t overly secluded.

That’s why the report last week of a young woman being robbed at gunpoint downtown by two masked men as she walked home from work is at the very least unnerving.

everyone who lives and comes here feels safe and protected.

The suspects, believed to be between the ages of 17 and 23, approached the 19-year-old woman from behind, then fled on foot with her purse. Both were carrying guns, with hoods over their heads and handkerchiefs covering their faces, the victim reported. They remained at-large early this week as police continued their investigation.

The fact that it wasn’t exceptionally late — around 9:30 p.m. — and the woman was a couple blocks from the heart of downtown when the robbery occurred is especially troubling.

Police assure that, despite the incident, the streets downtown are still safe. Nonetheless, they have stepped up patrols.

While the victim was not harmed, the incident has put at least some downtown workers on edge.

“Everyone is like, ‘How could this happen in Andover?’” Rick Pruneau, owner of Park Street Pub located a couple blocks from the site of the robbery, says of his female employees.

But the reality is, it can.

There’s no denying there seems to be a rise in reported drug activity in Andover in recent times. While there is no evidence the two are connected, it does beg the question: If one problem exists, does another follow?

While a single incident is not sufficient cause for panic, the robbery should raise some level of concern. Residents and visitors alike would be wise in becoming more aware of their surroundings and perhaps buddy up on walks after dark.

Downtown is a popular place for local youths to meet up with friends and socialize and they need to take care in their travels, Phillips Academy students who return to campus this week just up the street from the alleged hold-up should especially be warned about keeping vigilante on their visits downtown.

At a time when downtown businesspeople are seeking to encourage more activity in the commercial sector, with the expansion of outdoor dining and efforts to rejuvenate some vacant storefronts, this type of publicity can’t be beneficial for attracting clientele.

Hopefully, last week’s robbery was an isolated incident. But what happened should serve as a wake-up call that crimes like this can happen anywhere, even on the otherwise picturesque streets of downtown Andover. And the town needs to make sure everyone who lives and comes here feels safe and protected.

A chance to say `Hi’

All signs point to Saturday’s Andover Day being one of the best ever. A record-number of vendors will be participating. Two stages will be showcasing a full day of entertainment. Even the weather forecast looks picture-perfect.

All that adds up to thousands of people pouring into downtown Andover to enjoy the fun.

The Andover Townsman will be part of the excitement, too. We’ll have a table set up in front of our office at 33 Chestnut St., just past the CVS parking lot where the food trucks will be lined up for the day. We’ll be offering some goodies for the kids and featuring our various publications, including our own “Andover Stories” and “Merrimack Valley Memories” books.

We encourage you to stop by on your travels Saturday as you take in all the festivities. We’d love the chance to introduce ourselves and “Hi.”