Thieves -- very possibly the same ones -- efficiently broke into three South Florida jewelry stores in three counties in a three-hour period before dawn Wednesday, netting a total haul that may have exceeded $500,000.
The night before, a fourth jewelry store in Miami-Dade County was struck in a similar fashion.
Police investigators in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Bal Harbour and Miami-Dade County haven't linked the crimes -- officially.
''It looks like they worked their way south,'' said Bal Harbour police Capt. Greg Roye.
Wednesday's sequence of crimes began about 2:40 a.m. when two or three men cut through a security gate protecting the Bailey Banks & Biddle jewelry store in Boca Raton's Town Center Mall at 6000 W. Glades Rd. They stole about $100,000 of the inventory, mostly men's jewelry, said Boca Raton police spokesman Sgt. Robert DeNeve.
It wasn't clear how the thieves got into the mall, but it appeared they had to force open a mall door to escape, DeNeve said. Video-camera recordings were being reviewed, he said.
Just before 4 a.m., ''multiple suspects'' cut through a security fence at the Mayors jewelry store at the Galleria Mall, 2500 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, said Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Sgt. Andy Pallen.
''Right now, the store is estimating between $100,000 and $300,000 worth of jewelry'' was stolen, Pallen said.
About 5:40 a.m., three hooded men wearing baggy clothes smashed the front glass of the Tiffany & Co. store in the Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave. Unlike the stores hit earlier, the Tiffany store has an outdoor front entrance.
''They strategically went to different cases and took an undetermined amount of jewelry,'' said Bal Harbour police spokesman Roye. ``We're not sure of the value, but we're sure it's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.''
THIEVES ON CAMERA
Surveillance cameras captured the Bal Harbour thieves in action.
The Gordon's Jewelers store at Dadeland Mall, 7535 N. Kendall Dr., was burglarized about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday by thieves who pried open a side door of the mall, then cut through the security gate to enter the store, said Miami-Dade police spokesman Juan DelCastillo. The intruders smashed display cases and made off with an undisclosed amount of jewelry. A security guard saw two men in dark clothes fleeing the scene, DelCastillo said.