String of unsolved thefts at St. Augustine outlets

Thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A string of thefts at the St. Augustine Premium Outlets has deputies looking for crooks and stores working to recover after losing thousands of dollars in merchandise just ahead of Black Friday.

According to deputies, there have been 76 thefts at the St. Augustine Premium Outlets since the beginning of the year. An additional 22 thefts were reported at stores at the St. Augustine Outlets on Outlet Mall Boulevard.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office says sometimes it's just one person, but in some cases groups of thieves are working together to steal from the retail stores.

"They're walking in and stealing $1,000 or $2,000 worth of items, many times from the same shelf," said Chuck Mulligan with the Sheriff's Office.

According to incident reports, one store at the outlet mall was targeted two times within a 48 hour time frame. Mulligan said some of the stores are being targeted because the front door makes for an easy getaway.

"One you step out the door, you're in the parking lot. If you have a car waiting to pick you up when you exit, you're in the car driving out the parking lot," Mulligan said.

The National Retail Federation identifies the loss of merchandise as inventory shrinkage. The federation says inventory shrinkage is costing the U.S. retail industry billions of dollars each year. The federation also says 36-percent of retail shrinkage is the result of shoplifting. 

Unfortunately, the cost of retail shrinkage can get handed down to the consumer in some cases.

"Anytime someone steals, it's truly stealing from all of us," Mulligan said. "In the end, it comes back to the consumer who is walking in to make a purchase."

According to a the security firm FaceFirst, 60 percent of known shoplifters were detected entering two separate locations of the same retail chain.

As for the merchandise that was recently stolen at the St. Augustine, authorities believe the thieves are likely to sell that merchandise online.

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