Dense Fog Advisory issued March 6 at 3:37AM EST expiring March 6 at 10:00AM EST in effect for: DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Pinellas, Polk
Polk County sheriff's deputies arrested 41 people in 48 hours for stealing merchandise from retail stores.
Operation Sticky Fingers targeted thieves at popular stores like Target, TJ Maxx, and Bealls.
The operation was part of a class that deputies held with retailers to ramp up its fight against theft.
In less than two days, deputies caught thieves stealing as much as $904 worth of merchandise.
Video taken by the Sheriff's Office shows one woman leaving a store with a plastic tote in her shopping cart filled with meat and groceries.
It also turned out her car seat was just a decoy, stuffed with clothes she didn't pay for.
"If you can't fix stupid, then you can arrest stupid," Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters.
He said these may be seemingly minor offenses, but the thieves are doing much more.
"People who are in the stores stealing are the same ones who are in your neighborhoods stealing, in your backyard stealing, breaking into your homes," he said.
At least one of the 41 accused shoplifters said the sheriff and his team crossed the line.
"Oh I'm so pissed right now you don't even know. I'm not a thief," said Linda Matherly who was hauled to jail Wednesday after investigators said they caught her walking off with $28 worth of cat and dog food without paying.
Deputies said she had more than $1,500 in her pocket at the time.
She told ABC Action News she already paid for other items but didn't see the pet food in the bottom of her cart.
"I'm not a thief. It was an honest mistake. If I intended to steal something, I wouldn't steal dog food and cat food," she said.
It cost her $500 to bond out of jail. She said she already hired a lawyer.
A sheriff's spokesman told us thieves often do just that: Pay for some and steal the rest.
"We have a zero tolerance at the Sheriff's Office. If you steal, you go to jail. Period," Judd said.
Case in point: a juvenile who walked out of a store with a $1.50 can of Pringles.
He was hauled to juvenile detention.
"Do you know what his response was? Well, I've been smoking marijuana and I had the munchies," Judd said.
As part of this renewed focus on retail theft, Judd believes they have saved retailers more than $2.3 million since October.