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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - At around sundown Wednesday, a St. Claude Avenue bar owner says messages started rolling in about an armed robbery at another nearby bar.
"(I got a text) from another bartender and then another bartender, saying there had been a robbery at St. Roch Tavern right up the street," Allen said.
Allen, who co-owns Siberia, then heard reports of more crimes in the area.
"Basically, there was a crew out robbing, heads up," he said, recalling the alerts. "So then I sent out a text to four or five other bartenders. I called across the street to Kajun's Pub to let them know."
Throughout the evening, a rash of robberies set off a flurry of warnings and alerts through social media and text messaging, Allen said.
In all, three armed robberies were reported during a period of just a few hours.
Surveillance video captured the first holdup at St. Roch Tavern. In the footage, you can see two young males enter the bar. One points a gun at customers while the other confronts the bartender.
"(He) told me, 'open the register.' I did, he took the money, hopped over the bar, they both jetted," the bartender said.
Then, shortly before 9 p.m., two men held up a couple near Chartres and Dumaine in the French Quarter.
Police said one of the gunmen pistol-whipped a 64-year-old woman when she wouldn't give up her purse.
About 15 minutes later, investigators said a group of four young boys tried to rob a group of women near Markey's Bar on Royal Street in the Bywater.
Police arrested four young suspects – ages 11, 13, 14 and 17 – in connection with the crime.
Lisanne Brown, president of the Bywater Neighborhood Association, said her group immediately started blasting alerts through their Facebook page.
"We have a communications committee that is really active, and as soon as we hear about something, we share it right away with our neighbors and that's one way the news spread really quickly about what was going on," Brown said.
"Not to disparage law enforcement, but I think social media can be a more efficient way of spreading the word and perhaps protecting ourselves or, at least, an additional way to protect ourselves," Allen said.
Thursday night, NOPD officials said they're still trying to determine whether any of the robberies were connected.