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HOUSTON-- One look at the surveillance video showing the fight inside a Cricket store tells you that selling phones in Houston has become a dangerous business.

A guy wearing a hoodie walks into the store, approaches the counter, claims he has a gun and demands money. Two cameras capture the action. But this time, the workers decide to fight back.

Bilal Khan, the man behind the cash register, shoves the robber against the wall. The crook pulls a box cutter and swings it at Khan, barely missing his face. By this time, Joe Hernandez working in the back of the store hears the commotion, hits a panic button, and then runs behind the counter swinging a chair.

Yeah, well, I hit him like three times with the chair and I ran into the wall, Gonzalez recalls. And I started hitting him. And on the fourth time I actually hit our other store manager.

Gonzalez bolted away from the fight to lock the front door, trapping the robber inside. Both men manage to hold the robber until police arrive and arrest him.

The newly released video shows an attempted robbery last month at the Cricket store at 12803 Westheimer near Dairy Ashford, but the bullet holes in the store s windows stand as evidence that it was only the latest of three stick-ups at the same shop. And it s only one in a wave of robberies at stores selling cell phones around the Houston area, from Cricket outlets to Radio Shacks.

Robbers are apparently lured mainly by the hard cash on hand at many cell phone outlets.

The crime has become so common, Houston police crime prevention specialists have drawn up a number of recommendations for stores carrying phones. Among them:

  • Carry less high-end merchandise like iPads or put that merchandise in cabinets secured with time-delayed locks.
  • Have a secure safe.
  • Give employees alarm buttons to wear around their necks
  • Install controlled access doors to buzz in customers
  • Hire security guards

Some investigators would also like to see cell phone companies adopt a nationwide registration system for all phones. That could allow major carriers to deny service to stolen cellular phones.

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