The Ithaca Police chief’s creation of a multi-agency task force to investigate a string of armed robberies yielded results this week when police arrested an Ithaca resident who authorities say robbed two Tompkins County banks in the last two months.
Police arrested Ithaca resident Chaio B. Slater, 32, on Friday and charged him with two counts of robbery in the first degree, a felony. Officials accused him of using a gun to rob CFCU Community Credit Union on Jan. 17 in the Village of Lansing and Tompkins Trust Company on Dec. 5 in the City of Ithaca.
The arrest of Slater came two days after Ithaca Police arrested Curt Rosenfeld, also 32, and accused him of robbing three Tompkins County businesses with a pellet gun, including Shortstop Deli and Byrne Dairy in the City of Ithaca. That arrest was also the result of a multi-agency investigation.
Police officials said at a press conference on Saturday that they could not remember a time when there were so many armed robberies in the county in such a short period of time. The officials praised the multi-agency task force for investigating the robberies and, police say, solving five of the seven armed robberies that have taken place since Dec. 5.
“This was a very, very busy time with a series of robberies that occurred in a very short period of time in Tompkins County in and around the City of Ithaca,” Ithaca Police Chief Pete Tyler said, adding that the robberies “had an alarming effect on our citizens.”
Tyler formed the multi-agency task force — which included the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Cornell University Police Department, Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — and had representatives from each agency meet at Ithaca Police headquarters on Monday.
“What is remarkable is that within a week’s time … we had solved five of the robberies,” Tyler said, later calling the investigation “a remarkable example of what happens when we all play on the same team for a common cause.”
“We’re all small agencies,” Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner said. “And when we work together, we can accomplish big things.”
Ithaca Police investigators and SWAT unit members stopped Slater as he was driving northbound on Route 13 on Friday night and arrested the 32-year-old, who District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said is an Ithaca resident. Van Houten said Slater does not have any prior felony convictions but is “in the system.”
The suspect is being held at the Tompkins County Jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond.
Officials declined to say whether a gun had been recovered or what kind of weapon had been used in the robberies. Police previously had identified the weapon only as a “handgun.”
The Tompkins County sheriff, Kenneth Lansing, said he heard from residents who were concerned about the string of robberies in December and January and noted that he had not seen a string of armed robberies like this in the decades he has been in law enforcement.
“The community was fearful,” Lansing said. “This just doesn’t happen.”
Speaking generally, Lansing said the motive behind many robberies in the county — whether large or small — is opioid addiction.
“People need money … for whatever reason, and usually it is, unfortunately, the drug problems that we have” in the region, he said.
Michael DuBois, FBI supervisory senior resident agent, said the FBI’s Ithaca office provided resources to aid in finding Slater and he praised the task force for its dedication.
“It was a particularly productive week due to the outstanding level of cooperation we got between the agencies here,” DuBois said.
Two armed robbery investigations remain open: A man reportedly robbed Top Shelf Liquor Store on Danby Road in the Town of Ithaca near Ithaca College on Dec. 27, and, most recently, an armed man robbed the Quik Shoppe in Northside in the City of Ithaca on Jan. 21.
Slater’s next court date will be on Friday, Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. in the Town of Lansing Court.