'Mob' of teens steal $18K in handbags in coordinated theft, deputies say

Deputies: Teens rushed in to Kate Spade store, grabbed purses, ran off

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter, Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Nearly $18,000 in high-end purses and handbags were stolen New Year’s Eve in a major heist from the Kate Spade store at the St Augustine Outlet Mall, deputies said.

According to the incident report, seven or eight teens burst into the store in the middle of the afternoon, spread out, grabbed 46 bags, then ran off.

A store employee tried to block the door but wasn't able to stop the thieves.

The thieves drove away in a black Toyota Corolla with Florida license plate HHSI36, deputies said. They have not been caught.

The manager of the Kate Spade store declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing. Deputies said the store had no surveillance video of the coordinated mob robbery. 

"That's somewhat unusual in 2017 for a high-end store like that to not have any type of surveillance or security system that would capture something," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. 

Smith explained the so-called "flash mob" thefts are becoming increasing common trend across the country, often occuring at convenience stores and shopping malls.

"They come in very quickly, they come in as a group. It’s unclear whether they know each other, if they meet online and decide to do this, or if it’s something that’s planned and they come in as a group, just acting as though they’re shopping and looking around, then begin to take things," he said.

As long as thieves go un-prosecuted, Smith said, these types of crimes are likely to continue.

"It’s a crime of opportunity, if people feel they can get away with it, then people will continue to do that. But in this area, I’m sure that within the next day or so, they will have some type of surveillance video up around these stores," Smith said.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office at 904-824-8304.

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