July 20 2018 12:00 AM

Members of closed Facebook group hope information exchange will catch thieves.


It was one theft too many. The $1,200 Stihl chain saw taken from Mower Depot, an Ormond Beach, Florida landscape equipment store was the last straw for its office manager, Brandy Snyder, according to a story published in the Ormond Beach Observer.

The most recent incident involved two men who lingered around the store for about a half hour, pretending to mull over the purchase of the chain saw. “There were no red flags or anything right away," Snyder said.

They aroused suspicion, however, when they kept entering and leaving the store. Then one of the men grabbed the Stihl MS661, which was packed in its box, pretending to read the German words printed on it as he slowly eased his way to the entrance, until an employee noticed and he ran out to the parking lot.

Both men then drove away in a black Jeep Wrangler. The report by the Ormond Beach police department said it appeared as though the vehicle’s license plate had been covered by a sheet of paper. The car also had an illegal window tint that was so dark "you couldn't even tell there was a driver in there."

It’s not the first time the store’s been hit. In October, an overnight burglary resulted in $5,000 worth of items being taken. It was the third time in five years the store has been broken into.

In response to the theft, Snyder started a closed Facebook outdoor power tool community watch group. Dealers, store owners and employees who are members of the group can post information about suspicious persons, larcenies or burglaries. “It’s basically just like a little hotline for dealers," she said.

This shoplifting incident comes after a flurry of fake checks used to buy merchandise at the store. Now the store is requiring a thumb print scan for anyone making a purchase by check.

The plague of thefts has been frustrating for Snyder. “When something like this happens, everybody’s on their toes and then you’re wondering if something’s going to happen at night afterwards.”

Hopefully, the Facebook group will help prevent future incidents like this. Verified members of the outdoor power tool community will be able to exchange information and surveillance stills quickly.

“Say if another dealer sees this and then it just so happens they see these guys in their store, they can at least call the non-emergency line and go ‘Hey, I see some suspicious people in my store,’" Snyder says. It may even help catch the two chain saw thieves.