EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 30, 2013

Police: Organized retail thieves hit mall stores

By Jo-Anne MacKenzie

---- — SALEM — A shoplifting suspect who has hit the Mall at Rockingham Park repeatedly may have stolen as much as $100,000 worth of merchandise from stores in two states over the past several months.

The female suspect represents just one of a number of recent shoplifting incidents that are the work of organized thieves, Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said yesterday.

Victoria’s Secret in the Mall at Rockingham Park has been hit eight times in the past seven or eight weeks, he said.

“Each theft is worth a few thousand bucks,” he said.

Peabody police are looking for the woman, too, and said they believe she is responsible for several thefts from stores at the Northshore Mall over the past few months.

In addition to Victoria’s Secret, the woman is suspected in thefts from Sephora and Abercrombie & Fitch, also in the Mall at Rockingham Park, Patten said.

On one occasion, she is believed to have stolen 80 bras from Victoria’s Secret.

The suspect is believed to carry a large bag. She quickly stuffs items into it and leaves the store, Patten said.

Organized retail theft is common, he said, and tough to stop.

“These organized retail rings sell to other stores or online for a lot less than the retail price,” he said. “There are any number of ways to get rid of stolen merchandise.”

When someone shoplifts in significant quantities, he said, it’s unlikely they are stealing items for their own use.

“It’s safe to say she’s not using everything she’s stealing,” he said. “It’s safe to say there are other people involved.”

Another incident at the mall Monday evening also may be the work of an organized ring, he said.

Two men, believed to be in their 20s, took approximately $2,760 worth of jeans from Lord and Taylor in the Mall at Rockingham Park, Patten said.

The suspects were in the store for a very short time when one of them took a trash bag from his pocket and quickly stuffed two stacks of jeans inside. The other suspect did the same and the two left the store.

Loss prevention personnel saw the suspects leave in a car with Massachusetts plates.

“We believe we have identified one of the suspects,” Patten said.

These suspects, too, could be part of an organized ring, he said.

It’s not unusual for thieves to use trash bags or large pocketbooks to fill with merchandise, he said. Some people go so far as to line trash bags with duct tape and aluminum foil in an effort to circumvent a store’s security system, he said.

While Salem has seen an increase in thefts, Patten said, organized retail theft is not uncommon.

“In 100 percent of the cases, the dollar amount and the number of items taken is large,” Patten said. “It’s big hits, big scores each time.”

Anyone with information on any of these suspects is asked to call police at 893-1911 or the Southern N.H. Crimeline at 893-6600.