Deputies investigate smash-and-grab car burglaries outside St. Augustine gym

Designer purse, wallet, credit cards among items stolen, deputies say

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - There's a neighborhood crime alert in St. Johns County, where deputies are investigating smash-and-grab car burglaries that occurred in broad daylight Tuesday outside the Planet Fitness on U.S. 1 in St. Augustine. 

According to St. Johns County Sheriff's Office incident reports obtained by News4Jax on Thursday, the thief caused hundreds of dollars' worth of damage to two cars, and stole credit cards and hundreds of dollars' worth of personal items.

One of the victims, who did not want to speak on camera, said she believes the thief watched her hide her $350 purse in the car before she went into the gym, and then smashed her car window and took the purse.

Two days after the auto burglaries, shattered glass still remained on the ground of the shopping plaza parking lot directly in front of the Planet Fitness gym. 

“I found a ton of glass -- a big, broken window," said Shelby Waggoner, a St. Augustine resident who cleans the parking lot. "I had to have my mom come out and help sweep up the glass because there was a ton of glass here.”

Two women who are members of Planet Fitness told deputies that they finished their workouts, walked to their cars and discovered they were victims of a smash-and-grab. 

According to the incident reports, the stolen items included a dozen credit cards, a $145 engraved stethoscope, a $350 Coach purse, a $150 Coach wallet and various other items.

Investigators said they could not find any surveillance cameras overlooking the parking lot.

Gym member Christie Ruther said it’s disturbing to know that the thief may have been watching the victims.

"Anybody can do it. Anybody could be watching me right now, watching me take my purse and tuck it under my seat," Ruther said. "It’s not safe there.”

The victim who spoke with News4Jax said she had been parked right next to a police car. 

“There is a police officer who goes here and I see him here all the time," Ruther said. "So you would think seeing that car alone would help deter people.”

News4Jax contacted Planet Fitness to find out what steps it's taking to protect its members and its members' property, but has not yet heard back.

Last year, News4Jax reported on car break-ins in the parking lot of a Jacksonville gym.

The auto burglaries are a reminder to always take valuables inside the gym and lock them in a locker.

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