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Shoplifters get away with $9K in coats from Dawsonville outlet mall

DAWSONVILLE — Authorities are investigating the theft of more than $9,000 in designer jackets Friday night from a shop at North Georgia Premium Outlets.

Workers at Burberry said the two suspects had been in the outlet store an hour earlier and asked to place some shoes and a belt on hold.

When they returned about 6 p.m., Dawson County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten said, they took nearly 20 jackets, ranging in price from $405 to $595 each, off the racks and left.

Investigators believe they were driving a "newer model white Chrysler with no tag showing," Wooten said.

The suspects are described as a 6-foot, 2-inch tall black man weighing between 180 and 190 pounds. He was reportedly wearing a gray hoodie and gray pants.

The black female suspect, who had bleached blond hair, was wearing black and purple pants with a black top. Witnesses said she was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 130 pounds.

While the outdoor outlet mall off Ga. 400 has experienced its share of crime over the years, it seems to have recently become a hotbed for criminal activity, most notably thefts, according to local investigators.

Burberry was hit over the summer when three suspects used a sledgehammer Aug. 15 to burst through the front glass before getting away with more than $20,000 in designer handbags, clothing and accessories.

Less than two weeks earlier, a woman entered the Zales store just after it opened, brandished a firearm, forced employees to a back room where she zip-tied their and escaped with an estimated $13,000 in jewels.

Authorities believe the outlet mall is considered an easy target for crime because of its proximity to Ga. 400 and its quick access to the metro Atlanta area.

No arrests have been made in any of the cases.

"Over the last six months we've had increased shopliftings, increased entering autos,” said Sheriff’s Maj. Ray Goodie. “We've had robberies, and we've had smash and grabs all that are focusing around the outlet mall.”

Goodie encouraged store management to take a proactive approach by having up-to-date and working video surveillance, as well as making sure employees know how to properly operate the equipment.

"The bigger problem is that when that one person gets away with it, they go and tell five or six of their friends, and then those five or six friends come up here and do the same," he said. "Over time, you end up with a large amount of people that know they can come up here and get away with it."

Surveillance cameras in the parking lots of the mall would also help, he said.

"If you make it a harder target where the cost outweighs the benefit from robbing it, that's what you use to deter the robber," he said.

Mall management and security have said they work closely with authorities to share information that may lead to the arrest of the individuals involved in thefts at the mall.

According to a statement from mall management: "North Georgia Premium Outlets is committed to providing a safe, quality-shopping environment and takes several proactive security measures, including maintaining security patrol of our property and surrounding parking lots, and provides shoppers and employees with security escorts to their vehicles upon request.”

Investigators continue to comb through evidence from the latest incident, including reviewing video surveillance from surrounding stores.

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call the Dawson County Sheriff's Office at (706) 344-3535.