Bandits continue to target North Georgia Premium Outlets, this time shoplifting nearly $3,000 in merchandise from more than a half dozen stores at the outdoor mall.
"Most of what was taken was from Claire's, Gymboree and Aeropostale," said Dawson County Sheriff's Inv. Greg Edwards.
Bath and Body Works, Pac Sun, Papaya, Adidas and Disney were also among other stores hit in Thursday's spree.
Lakesha Kearria Yearby, Torry Sylvester Gray and Atanya Lareca Howard, all 24 of Athens, along with Jamekas Marquez Hampton, 29, of Hull are currently in custody on three felony shoplifting charges each.
Edwards said additional charges are expected to be filed.
"An individual working at one of the stores at the outlet mall, they called and said there were two black females and two black males that were hitting all the children's stores. They said they'd just left in a silver Chevrolet Impala out of Aeropostale," he said.
Forsyth County officials were notified.
The group was apprehended a short time later in Forsyth County between exits 15 and 16 on Ga. 400, according to Maj. Ray Goodie.
"They were spotted leaving and a [be on the lookout] was given out, Goodie said. "Forsyth County was who actually stopped the car, and our patrol units responded to the scene to assist. They ended up taking the four into custody and having the vehicle towed. "
Deputies located the stolen goods in trash bags in the back seat of the car.
According to Goodie, the outlet mall, due in part to its proximity to Ga. 400 and its quick access south to the Atlanta area, remains an easy target for theft.
"Over the last six months we've had increased shopliftings, increased entering autos. We've had robberies, and we've had smash and grabs all that are focusing around the outlet mall," he said.
"That's not saying it's not happening other places, but the majority is at the outlet mall."
Goodie encourages store management to take the proactive approach by having up-to-date and working video surveillance, as well as making sure employees know how to properly operate the equipment.
"The bigger problem is that when that one person gets away with it, they go and tell five or six of their friends, and then those five or six friends come up here and do the same," he said. "Over time, you end up with a large amount of people that know they can come up here and get away with it."
Surveillance cameras in the parking lots of the mall would also help, he said.
"If you make it a harder target where the cost outweighs the benefit from robbing it, that's what you use to deter the robber," he said.
Mall management and security have said they work closely with authorities to share information that may lead to the arrest of the individuals involved in thefts at the mall.
"North Georgia Premium Outlets is committed to providing a safe, quality-shopping environment and takes several proactive security measures, including maintaining security patrol of our property and surrounding parking lots, and provides shoppers and employees with security escorts to their vehicles upon request," the mall management recently released in a statement.