A man robbed an Old Orchard Beach restaurant Thursday afternoon, a crime that police say resembles eight other armed robberies in southern Maine over the past 10 days.

“The armed robbery appears to be similar to the recent string of robberies occurring in the Cumberland County area,” Old Orchard Beach Police Department Capt. David Hemingway said in a news release.

Police in six communities have been investigating the crimes, which have left owners of small convenience stores, gas stations and coffee shops shaken. No one has been hurt, but police are concerned that a confrontation could turn violent.

Area residents are on edge as well. When Saco police apprehended a suspect involved in a domestic disturbance Thursday night on Water Street, Facebook lit up with comments commending officers for capturing the robber.

Deputy Chief Jack Clements said the thanks were misplaced.

“His arrest was totally unrelated to the armed robberies,” Clements said. “It was a domestic call.”

Clements said southern Maine police departments are sharing information about the robberies as the suspect appears to be widening his range of targets.

Three of the armed robberies have taken place in Westbrook, two in Portland, one in Falmouth and one in Cumberland. The most recent before Thursday’s robbery happened Tuesday at Aroma Joe’s, a drive-thru coffee shop in South Portland. Thursday’s robbery in Old Orchard Beach was the first reported in York County.

The string began March 20 when a masked man entered the Riverton Gas Station on Forest Avenue in Portland armed with a silver handgun. The suspect demanded cash and fled on foot. The description given by Portland police closely matches those given by other robbery victims. The Forest Avenue suspect was described as about 5 foot 5 or 5 foot 6 inches tall with a thin build, wearing a ski mask that covered half his face. He also wore a dark cap, dark jacket and dark gloves. The same suspect is believed to have robbed the China Taste restaurant at 1223 Washington Ave., in Portland on March 25.

Hemingway said the suspect in Old Orchard Beach was male, between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 8 inches tall with a thin build and possibly blond hair.

“The suspect was wearing dark clothing and covering his face during the encounter,” Hemingway said.

He entered the China Eatery restaurant on Ocean Park Road around 3:38 p.m. and brandished a firearm, according to Hemingway. He demanded money from the person at the cash register and fled the restaurant with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.

Dottie Geisinger, manager of China Eatery, said a man wearing a dark sweatshirt and a black mask and gloves entered the restaurant shortly after 4 p.m., pointed a handgun and demanded the counter worker open the register. The robber then walked around the counter, grabbed a bag, and stuffed about $500 into it before fleeing, she said.

Old Orchard Beach Police and officers from surrounding departments responded, but were unable to locate the robber.

“Nobody was here eating but customers were here picking up,” Geisinger said. No one was hurt, she said.

Geisinger said she gave police video surveillance footage of the robbery.

Old Orchard Beach Police Chief Dana M. Kelley told News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ) that a Scarborough police dog tracked the suspect down a side street but the trail ended.

Police assume he left the scene in a vehicle.

Geisinger was unaware that the robbery is likely the ninth in a string.

“I don’t watch the news, so I didn’t hear about any of those other ones until this one happened,” she said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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Twitter: MattByrnePPH