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    Smash-and-Dash Thefts Up in Florida

    Cigarette thieves causing retailers' profits to go up in smoke.

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Thieves are cutting into the profits of several Tampa area retail stores.

    A majority of the business at Fred and Debi DeLong's Chevron convenience store in Tampa comes from the sale of cigarettes. Unfortunately, threats from the criminal element may soon cut into their profits. A recent rash of thefts involving cigarettes in the Tampa Bay area has the couple worried that they may be next. "There have been some smash-and-grabs, particularly of cigarettes," Debi DeLong said.

    The DeLongs have had some close calls, but so far their Oldsmar, Fla., store has not been hit. That's not the case for the nearby Winn-Dixie supermarket in Tarpon Springs that was hit by a burglar last week. Police estimate he got away with approximately $5,000 worth of cigarettes, according to the Tampa News. Police said the thieves entered the store and went directly over to the cigarette counter area and stole well over 150 cartons.

    Surveillance video from a Tampa Chevron convenience store shows a cigarette thief in action. He escaped with several dozen cartons. Police say no matter what the brand is, cigarettes are an easy sell on the street and a fast way to make a buck.

    "Sometimes the thefts are sporadic in nature and sometimes there are organized groups that go around targeting certain areas and stores," Tampa police Sgt. Joel Young told the Tampa News.

    Debi DeLong is doing everything she can to make sure her business is secure. "We do whatever we can to safeguard against it," she said. "We have the cameras and other security measures installed."

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