Thieves armed with hammers have burglarized three jewelry stores in Northern Virginia in recent weeks — in one case strolling through a mall with their arms loaded with thousands in stolen merchandise.
Police in Fairfax County are on the lookout for who’s responsible in the smash-and-grab burglaries.
The crimes happened in what felt like the blink of an eye and were terrifying, store employees said. The thieves used hammers to smash display cases. Once the chaos ended, they disappeared with tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry and left a mess of shattered glass.
It started at a jewelry store in Tysons Corner Center on Sept. 8. Surveillance cameras captured images of three people.
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Ten days later, at Fair Oaks Mall, another jewelry store was hit. An employee shared video footage with News4 but said he was too nervous to show his face on camera. He described the deafening sound of hammers smashing glass cases holding high-end watches.
The thieves walked out of the store and into the mall casually, their arms loaded with stolen items, the employee said.
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That type of behavior tells Fairfax County police the burglars may have struck previously.
“It definitely does look rehearsed. Obviously we're investigating three here in the county. We’re trying to determine the relationship amongst all three. But it’s not their first time doing it,” Jason Chandler of the police department said.
Most recently, the thieves hit Sonia Jewelers, in Springfield, on Tuesday.
Detectives believe the same people are responsible for the three crimes, smashing up cases and shattering the safety of store employees.
Police urge store owners to be vigilant. Officers can visit businesses, perform safety inspections and offer guidance on how to prevent crime.