54ºF

2 men swipe $4K worth of sunglasses, deputies say

Theft reported at Sunglass Hut in St. Augustine outlet mall

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Two men stole $4,000 worth of sunglasses in a coordinated theft at a St. Augustine outlet mall store, according to deputies.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office incident report said the two men entered the Sunglass Hut about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, gathered up 13 pairs of sunglasses, jumped into a getaway car and sped away on Interstate 95.

"In some of the sunglasses stores, the sunglasses are on display on the counter and the walls, so it's easy for them to come in and just grab what's readily available to them," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst.

A St. Johns County deputy pursued the car briefly, but it got away. A witness was able to get the vehicle's tag number, but it turned out to be a rental.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the theft was the latest incident in the rising trend of coordinated crime. Investigators said thieves are working together in groups to target stores that sell expensive merchandise, such as pricey sunglasses.

While most people view sunglasses as a nice item to have, Smith said, thieves see big bucks.

"They can make money off of it. They are high-end glasses. They are more expensive and the more expensive the glasses are, the more they can sell it on the black market," Smith said. "So that's what they're doing, trying to flip the glasses as quickly as possible and make as much cash as possible."

But Smith said the problem comes when the companies choose not to prosecute the thieves, which leads to an increase in organized crime rings and more problems.

"That could be putting their employees in more danger because the criminals know we can go to the store and we may not get caught," Smith said. "And when they come back, they may be even more dangerous. And that happens quite often."

There's been several previous robberies reported at the outlets. In March, deputies said, thieves took pricey purses from the Saks Off Fifth in a coordinated theft. In January, a mob of teens robbed the Kate Spade store at the outlets, according to deputies.

Anyone with information about Tuesday's incident is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-824-8304 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277 8477.