About 6:15 p.m. Thursday, New Orleans police say, Sidney Williams walked into an Uptown Wendy’s wearing orange sneakers, blue latex gloves and with a white shirt covering his face. He allegedly walked right around the counter and ordered a clerk to open the register. In a minute, the loot was his and he was out the door — able to escape on his bicycle.
This allegedly was Williams’ seventh armed robbery in 2015, but it was also his last.
Detectives knew of Williams, 31, and his previous exploits, police said. They went to his home in the 2900 block of Gen. Taylor Street and caught him as he ran out the back door.
At a news conference Friday, Deputy Chief Bob Bardy and commanders from the 6th District, 2nd District and Special Operations Division touted the arrest as an example of the New Orleans Police Department’s ability to quickly apprehend the perpetrators of armed robberies.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, reports of armed robberies citywide were 35 percent higher than in the same period in 2013, but department leaders pointed out that in the past eight days, they arrested 13 armed robbery suspects.
During the past three or four weeks, in response to crime trends, the department has deployed members of the Special Operations Division to patrol Uptown and conduct proactive surveillance, the NOPD said.
Sixth District Cmdr. Ronnie Stevens described the use of plainclothes officers in unmarked cars performing coordinated surveillance throughout the neighborhood. The additional bodies, deployed strategically, led to Williams’ arrest, he said.
This formula has been applied in other parts of town, and at the news conference, Bardy also cited an arrest Wednesday when a suspect was apprehended within four hours of a crime in Faubourg Marigny.
“Putting your officers in the right places at the right times is paying big dividends to the Police Department at this time,” Bardy said.
Police described Williams as a career criminal who has been on the department’s radar for some time. His arrest record dates back more than a decade, and during this most recent robbery spree, police allege, he targeted mostly fast-food restaurants on South Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues.
Authorities connected Williams to the robbery of a Rally’s in the 3200 block of South Carrollton on Jan. 4; a Popeyes in the 4200 block of South Claiborne on Jan. 9; a Wendy’s in the 3100 block of South Carrollton on Jan. 15; a Burger King in the 2400 block of South Carrollton on the same day; a Shell gas station in the 3100 block of South Carrollton on Jan. 17; a Dollar General store in the 2800 block of South Claiborne on Jan. 19; and finally a Wendy’s in the 4200 block of South Claiborne on Thursday.
In all seven armed robberies, the robber was armed with a handgun and demanded cash. Surveillance video showed a man using the same gun and wearing the same clothes for all the robberies and fleeing on a bicycle.
Police said they found the clothing Williams wore, the allegedly stolen gun he used and the “banana bike” he rode at the Gen. Taylor Street address.
A similar serial robber who targeted Subway sandwich shops was nabbed earlier in the week, police said. Reginald Wilson, 46, allegedly robbed five Subways — some twice — and was picked up in Franklinton after someone called in a tip.
Bardy said fast-food restaurants are favored targets for robbers because they stay open late and have ample cash on hand.
Police had questioned Williams in a separate incident in September.
A Chevron gas station in the 1300 block of South Jefferson Davis Parkway was robbed by a man who dropped a plastic bag containing a telephone book, according to police records. DNA from the book allegedly matched Williams, and he was questioned, but a police report states, “although he had no alibi for his whereabouts during the robbery he was released at that time.”