MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Miami Beach police have arrested a man they say is a serial shoplifter wanted for stealing thousands of dollars worth of items since February.

CBS4 News also obtained exclusive surveillance video that police say shows the thief casually walking into stores along the Lincoln Road Mall, grabbing items and then fleeing.

Miami Beach Police spokesman, Officer Ernesto Rodriguez told CBS4’S Peter D’Oench, “He’s seen entering these businesses. We’re talking businesses like Victoria’s Secret, Oakley and Ted Baker. This man just walks in, takes merchandise and walks out as if he does not have a care in the world.”

Rodriguez said after the arrest of 48-year-old Jose Mesa on Saturday at one store, he was tied to nine other cases.

(Source: Miami Beach Police)

“We closed out a total of 10 cases. Each of these victims were able to positively identify this man through a photo lineup and now he’s behind bars facing 10 felony charges,” said Rodriguez. “When he was stopped not only did he have merchandise from one of the stores, but he also had a crack pipe with cocaine in it.”

Mesa was arrested on drug charges as well as numerous grand theft charges.

“Thousands of dollars were stolen from these stores. We hope that if and when he is released he will not come back to these stores in Miami Beach,” Rodriguez said. “I think there is no doubt that this man would have kept going. We have been trying to track this man since February of this year so that involved several months of investigative work that ties up resources and our patrol officers on the street and this is time spent on this and less time spent on more serious crimes.”

For police, it’s an end to an investigation they’ve been trying to solve for months, but it also gives detectives a chance to tell Mesa’s victims that the shoplifter is finally behind bars.

“This arrest is gratifying to detectives and the department and to victims,” Rodriguez said. “It’s always a good time when you can call 10 separate victims and alert them that this man has been apprehended.”

Shoppers said they were well aware of the toll that shoplifting takes and applauded the arrest.

“Shoplifting harms everyone because it drives up costs,” said Deborah Farhi.

Ken McCall, a shopper and tourist visiting South Florida with his wife from London said, “Shoplifting means for everyone else the price goes up because there is a loss factor for products and therefore the stores and manufacturers have to charge someone. It means customers have to pay more. With less shoplifting, the products in the stores will not cost as much.”

Police said Mesa lives in an apartment in Little Havana. Records show he is still in custody.

Most of his victims were chain operations and managers are not allowed to talk on camera but some of them told CBS4 News that they were relieved that the brazen bandit was behind bars.

Peter D'Oench

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