By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The holiday shopping season is upon us and officials say criminals are becoming more brazen, targeting stores in large groups.

“We’ve seen organized shoplifting. We’ve seen violent shoplifting. But we’ve never seen the type of organized shoplifting that we’ve seen lately,” said Read Hayes, a research scientist at the University of Florida and the Loss Prevention Research Council.

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Hayes said crooks are now teaming up for flash mob robberies.

“Five to 50 vehicles pull up, almost synonymously, as many as 30 of the occupants jump out with sledge hammers, wire cutters and other tools. They know exactly where there going in the store and they strip very large areas of department stores of a lot of desirable goods,” Hayes said.

The Louis Vuitton store at the Oak Brook Center in Illinois was among the most recent to fall victim. According to police, a crew of 14 criminals worked together to clean out the store before driving away in three vehicles.

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Another large robbery crew hit a high-end store in a Chicago-area shopping mall. Workers there described the heist.

“It was really scary. We are kinda use to a lot of kids, but nothing in that capacity. It was very scary,” the worker said.

Back in South Florida, some stores CBS4 contacted were on high alert, adding extra security measures. Some even locking doors until a guard authorizes access. Hayes said that’s just the beginning.

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“Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County have some of the highest theft, fraud and violence rates in the nation,” he explained. “So you’re going to see Miami-Dade, you’re going to see the other law enforcement agencies, FDLE at the state level, putting out notifications. The state attorney general now has a taskforce to tackle the problem and this is before some of these most recent blatant attacks.”