Three central Ohio police agencies have a beef with whoever has been stealing thousands of dollars worth of jerky from area grocery stores.

Three central Ohio police agencies have a beef with whoever has been stealing thousands of dollars worth of jerky from area grocery stores.

On Jan. 11, a man in Worthington walked out of the Kroger at 60 E. Wilson Bridge Road with a shopping cart containing an estimated $1,300 worth of candy, beef jerky and laundry detergent about 8:30 p.m.

Police reviewed security footage and matched the description of the suspect – a 6-foot white man in his 20s or early 30s and weighing about 185 pounds – to a similar case officers had seen in Marion, with a suspect matching the man's description.

Worthington police Sgt. Michael Holton said the man had been taken into custody in Marion after being found in a "drug house" and that he had been interviewed by Worthington police but did not cooperate.

Holton would not speculate whether the suspect might have been involved with other cases around the city but said his department was preparing a grand-jury case.

Holton also said crimes involving detergent, candy and beef jerky are fairly common in the area and frequently are resold at a "mom and pop" convenience store or gas station, particularly due to beef jerky's high markup.

Two other cases similar to the Worthington incident occurred at Kroger stores in Orange Township and Dublin six days later.

According to police reports, about 9 p.m., a loss-prevention officer at the Kroger at 7625 Sawmill Road in Dublin noticed a man pushing a cart loaded with beef jerky and candy out of the store's entrance. When the officer followed the man, he saw three other people putting the items into the car. The loss-prevention officer grabbed the cart and requested that one of the men follow him back into the store, but all four men jumped into the vehicle and fled.

The stolen candy and beef jerky were valued at more than $1,400.

The next day, Delaware County sheriff's deputies responded to a call for a similar incident that had occurred about 10:30 p.m. the night before. In their report, officers noted that Kroger staff informed them of hearing about the Dublin incident.

This time, three male suspects left the store with $920 worth of beef jerky, $989 in laundry detergent and $366 in candy, for a total of $2,275 worth of merchandise.

Sheriff's reports list three potential known suspects in the case from Marion and Lewis Center.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Tracy Whited said detergent is a commonly stolen item in many jurisdictions.

"It's like baby formula. It's something that people use a lot of regularly that's not always cheap," she said.

Whited said it was more uncommon to see thefts of large quantities of beef jerky and candy.

Despite similarities in the area cases, officers from all three agencies declined to comment on links between the incidents.

ThisWeek reporter Thomas Gallick contributed to this story.