DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in retail thefts in the area, including the Destin Ulta Beauty store on Emerald Coast Parkway.

The store has been featured three times in 2022 for shoplifting crimes and arrests. All three cases were suspects out of state stealing perfumes and other valuable items.

Sergeant Joe Gordon with the Criminal Investigations Division answered the following questions from WKRG News 5 Wednesday.

Why is the Destin location being targeted? 

“I don’t know that the Destin location, in particular, is being targeted. But, to that point, there has been an uptick in the number of retail thefts from that location this year.”

Are these reports coming out because employees are good at spotting the crime in progress? 

“One thing I noticed when reviewing these reports is that the employees are doing a great job spotting the thefts as they have occurred over the recent months. This has helped us catch the thieves in the recent incidents you are referring to.” 

Why do these suspects go for the perfume bottles?

“Perfume bottles are easy to conceal and can be worth a high dollar amount. Unfortunately, that makes them coveted and easily targeted by criminals.”

All three of the incidents were people from out of town; how does that connect to why this is happening here?

“Criminals often travel to locations within a few hours of where they live to commit crimes. They believe it makes them less likely to be caught because the odds are that they won’t be recognized by anyone who sees them commit the crime.”

Sgt. Gordon said this problem is not specific to Okaloosa County.

Over recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in organized retail theft all over the nation. Florida has taken notice of this, and Governor Desantis recently signed SB 1534 into law. The bill adds provisions that crack down on organized retail theft. SB 1534 will take effect on October 1, 2022.

Sgt. Gordon

Summary of SB 1534:

The bill amends s. 812.015, F.S., the retail theft statute, to create new third degree felony and second degree felony retail theft crimes based on multiple retail thefts occurring in a limited time period in different merchant locations. Specifically, the bill amends the statute to provide that a person commits retail theft, a third degree felony, if the person individually, or in concert with one or more other persons, commits five or more retail thefts within a 30-day period and in committing such thefts obtains or uses 10 or more items of merchandise, and the number of items stolen during each theft is aggregated within the 30-day period to determine the total number of items stolen, regardless of the value of such merchandise, and two or more of the thefts occur at different physical merchant locations.

The bill also amends the statute to provide that a person commits a second degree felony if the person individually, or in concert with one or more other persons, commits five or more retail thefts within a 30-day period and in committing such thefts obtains or uses 20 or more items of merchandise, and the number of items stolen during each theft is aggregated within the 30-day period to determine the total number of items stolen, regardless of the value of such merchandise, and two or more of the thefts occur at a different physical retail merchant location.

The bill also amends s. 921.0022, F.S., the offense severity level ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code, to rank the new third degree felony retail theft offense as a level 5 offense and rank the new second degree felony retail theft offense as a level 6 offense.

Florida Senate

WKRG News 5 requests to Ulta Beauty corporate for a statement regarding the increase in retail thefts at the Destin location have not been returned. Ulta released a statement to WKRG News 5 after the large theft made on July 17.