• Still no arrests after 18th smash-and-grab robbery in Winter Haven


    Police in Winter Haven told Channel 9 that 18 businesses have been hit in Polk County since October with thieves using stolen cars to break into the business by smashing the car into the store's window.

    Authorities said the thieves are using older-model cars that are easier to steal.

    In one burglary, the thieves smashed a stolen Jeep Cherokee into the front of a Mobile Mart. The crooks jumped out and grabbed a quick profit before fleeing.

    Owner Nate Hill said the business has been hit three times.

    "They are in and out quick," said Hill. "They're good. They hit a lot of stores in the area. First time they stole some Beats (By Dre) headphones."

    The second time criminals smashed into the front of the store, Hill said they came in looking for cellphones but the owner had locked them up in the safe, so they stole more headphones, which are worth $300 each.

    Authorities said the thieves cover their faces with masks and wear gloves. In surveillance video, the thieves' eyes can barely be seen.

    The Winter Haven Game Stop was another store that was hit.  The burglars stole 13 gaming systems and did $8,000 in damage to the store.

    Police said the criminals typically strike between midnight and 2 a.m.

    "They're targeting closed businesses and we'd like to put a stop to this before some of the business might be occupied," said Sgt. Donny Nunnery of the Winter Haven Police Department.

    Law enforcement said several of the stolen cars have been recovered but they are looking for the suspects involved.

    Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

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