WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – The Shops at Wiregrass Mall in Wesley Chapel has been a popular shopping spot since it opened.
The Main Street, Middle America feel attracts consumers from across the area. But, it’s also attracting crooks.
The setup of the center makes it easier for thieves to get in and out of stores, versus a traditional mall where they might be running down a common area or hallway with their stolen goods in tow.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office records show deputies have responded to the mall for shoplifting and petit theft calls three dozen times so far this year.
A majority of those calls involve one or two items of clothing, or perhaps the shopper simply forgot to pay for an item.
Then, there are those cases featured on the sheriff’s office Facebook page.
In one case, several women are pictured walking casually into the Victoria’s Secret. The group gathers pricey panties and other undergarments and hastily walk out of the store without paying. That was Jan. 16.
Then in February, a woman is pictured walking out of the J.C. Penny Store.
Investigators say she took a Sony Playstation 4 from a store display, removed the security alarm sensor and then walked out of the store.
There were other cases featured involving thefts from Justice and American Eagle.
The latest video released came from another Victoria’s Secret caper.
A dark or black Chevrolet sedan is pictured dropping a person off. The driver stays with the car idling, moving back and forth.
The next thing you see in the video is the person jump in the car with a load of stolen clothes and the car takes off.
The mall’s General Manager, Greg Lenners, is aware of the thefts and is communicating with the retailers regularly.
“Communicating with them, getting the word out and also educating because actually, the merchants can teach us something. What are they doing to prevent any such crimes of this nature?” said Lenners.
“Eyes and ears. Even the customers. We’re constantly talking to our customers, our guest services department.”
The sheriff’s office reports the crimes that have been reported have not been physical. There have been no confrontations, injuries, nor any weapons involved.
That being said, Kareem Denis wants his employees to be alert and ready. He manages a music store in the mall. He has his workers outside of the store on a daily basis.
“We have salesmen that rotate shifts, that just go outside and greet the customers every 15 minutes,” said Denis. “But it’s also a good way to see what’s going on in the surrounding businesses outside.”