Burglar targets vendors at Polk County flea market

- A burglar targeted a Polk County flea market over the weekend. Deputies believe he's the same person who broke in three months ago. They're hoping surveillance pictures will help them catch up to the suspect before it happens again.

Each weekend, hundreds of vendors operate more than a thousand stores at International Market World. You'll find t-shirts, tools, clothing, produce, just about anything you could think of. There, the tradition of buying and selling often spans generations.

"I've been out here since probably 1995," said a vendor who asked not to be named,. "My grandparents have been out here as well for years."

"My father, my brothers and myself built this, starting in 1981, from the ground up," said Vincent To, President of International Market World.

Though shops are only open Friday through Sunday, for many vendors, this is their full-time job and primary paycheck. 

"This is how we make out living. We are not like some big chain store or anything. This is it," the vendor said.

So when the vendor saw a man on surveillance video stealing from her family's shop and others, the crime was especially personal.

"You steal a duffel bag down here, you steal clothing off this lady," the vendor said. "He's taking from our livelihood."

The first break-in happened October 28th. The man scaled two barbed wire fences and slipped past guard dogs. In all, deputies say he stole $1,400 worth of items like RC drones and helicopters, jewelry, backpacks and tools. It happened once again early Saturday morning.

"He stole a shopping cart to fill up with all the stuff before he left," To said. "He knew what he wanted and where he wanted to go."

This time, it's estimated the thief stole about a thousand dollars in merchandise.

"It just adds up," the vendor said, after losing various tools and hardware items. "Everything is costly. We feel it. We're trying to make a car payment. We're trying to feed the kids."

"Things like this impact everybody out of their pocket," To said.

Polk County deputies believe the same person is responsible for both burglaries. Each time it happens, vendors say they're not the only ones he steals from.

"Anything we buy, we buy locally," the vendor said. "So, this guy is taking from your community. He's taking from us local vendors. We don't have the money for this guy to keep coming in and taking from us."

If you recognize the suspect, call the Polk County Sheriff's Office. You can leave also an anonymous tip with Heartland Crime Stoppers and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $3,000 if your tip results in his arrest.

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