Deputies: Target burglary suspects could be part of teen crime ring

- Four burglary suspects are on the run after they broke into a Target store and led authorities on a chase from Hernando County to Orange County.

Around 2:45 A.M., the suspects were seen on surveillance video smashing a glass door at the entrance of the Target at 4401 Commercial Way in Spring Hill.

The suspects ran from aisle to aisle, filling trash bags with electronics before fleeing in a blue BMW SUV. Both the vehicle and its tags were stolen in Brevard County.

Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Hernando and Sumter County Sheriff's Offices, Brooksville Police and Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), chased the vehicle at a high speed along State Road 50 and onto Interstate 75.

A deputy was nearly hit while trying to deploy stop sticks on the roadway.

"The vehicle actually drove towards the deputy, causing the deputy to take evasive action," said Lieutenant Mark Castleberry with FHP.

The suspects made it to Orlando and abandoned the vehicle at the Windsor Cover Apartments off Mercy Drive.

Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the juveniles involved in the burglary and chase are believed to be a part of a teenage crime ring based in the Orlando area.

Authorities believe the group is connected to multiple "smash and grab" burglaries over the last six months from Tampa Bay to Orlando, including a burglary at the Tampa Arms Company, where 42 guns were taken, and car dealerships burglarized in at least three counties, including Hernando.

"They're not the average kid who makes a mistake. These are coordinated criminals. Some might even call them thugs," sad Sheriff Nienhuis."These are individuals that are doing this well thought out, well planned. They know what they're doing. They're intentionally doing it. It's not just a spur of the moment thing."

While the suspects in Wednesday morning's heist eluded arrest, deputies said they were able to recover almost all of the merchandise stolen from Target, including a 49" flat-screen television.

Law enforcement agencies across Central Florida have formed a task force to crackdown on the crime ring. They believe the Orlando-based juveniles are targeting the Tampa Bay area because they will not be recognized if they're faces are caught on camera or shown on the local news.

Authorities said they are hoping the community will help them located the suspects behind the burglaries.

"See something say something. There's a law enforcement set of eyes, but there's community all around us," said Lt. Castleberry, "and our message to them would be, these are the same people that are impacting local residents. There's victims throughout the state, so see something, say something."

Anyone with information is asked to call Tampa Bay Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS or the Central Florida Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

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