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Why do robbers pick on Subway'

Being the lone store open in a strip mall, often with a single female employee, is making Subway stores in Medford a frequent target for armed robbers, police say.

Monday's unrelated robberies of two Subways brings to 10 the number of times the sandwich stores have been targeted in three years.

They're getting hit a lot, said Medford police Detective Bill Ford, who has investigated several of the robberies.

The robberies usually occur at night, when other businesses are closed and Subway's lighted interior and large windows give robbers the information they need.

— It's pretty easy to see that it's one female employee working there, said Ford.

He also said the restaurants' easy accessibility for customers translates into multiple escape routes for criminals.

Jeff Hoxsey, franchisee of the seven Medford stores, did not return multiple phone calls requesting comment. Neither did Richard Hackstedde, who is listed on the business licenses as owner, nor Ada Rogers, who employees said oversees the stores.

Debbie Garcia, manager of the Crater Lake Avenue Subway, said employees are told, as part of job training, not to resist weapon-toting robbers.

They say, 'Give them what they ask for and call the police afterward,' she said. There's not much else you can do.

The Biddle Road Subway near Poplar Drive has been held up five times: in December 2002, August 2002, June 2002, July 2001 and December 2000. James Colin Yeoman, 25, of Medford, was arrested and charged in the August 2002 crime; Robert Douglas Ross, a transient, was charged in the December 2000 robbery after he was arrested for more serious crimes in California.

Also in December 2002, police arrested Shane Whelchel, 24, of Sutherlin, after he was seen loitering near the Biddle Road Subway and admitted to stashing duct tape, a mask and a handgun in bushes nearby.

Monday morning's hold-up was the second at the North Phoenix Road site in the Larson Creek shopping complex, the first occurring in December 2002. The Monday evening hold-up at the Jacksonville Highway Subway near Albertsons was the only one at that location. Both suspects in the crimes, which appear to be unrelated, remain at large. The Subway at Crater Lake Avenue and McAndrews Road was robbed once in April 2001.

The Biddle Road store installed a surveillance system after its fourth robbery, but it was malfunctioning when the fifth robbery took place.

Ford said the attraction of robbers to that particular store probably has to do with its proximity to freeway ramps, making it an easy hit.

The South Riverside store also has a video camera system in place.

Subway employees contacted Tuesday declined to comment on the rash of robberies.

Medford Police Lt. Mike Moran said in all but one case, the amount stolen was &

36;150 or less. Also, the robber brandished a gun in all but the April 2001 robbery, when a knife was used.

Moran said he was not aware of it being a nationwide issue.

In L.A., 7-Elevens were robbed quite frequently, he said.

Ford added that in other cities, gas stations are frequent targets for robberies, but that's not the case in Medford.

Ford said he thinks a lot of the criminals are from out of the area. Out-of-town robbers usually are not worried about being recognized, said Ford.

If it's somebody who's wearing a mask, it's local, he said.

Surveillance cameras, monitors, panic buttons and multiple employees can help deter robberies for places like Subway, police said.

Ford said that in many of the cases, people report later that they had seen a suspicious person hanging around outside for a long period earlier in the day. Ford advises employees to notify the police of loiterers or any other suspicious activity.

Moran said during daily patrols, officers are aware of keeping an extra eye on the Subway restaurants, but it's difficult to do preventive work.

There's no real pattern here, he said. There's no common thread among suspects.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail .