PUYALLUP, Wash. -- A retail crime ring, targeting items like laundry detergent and diapers, is creating big problems in Puyallup.
Stores like Safeway are not typically thought of as a place for high-end theft, but groups of thieves are taking shoplifting to a new level and it's costing companies tens of thousands of dollars.
The group sends in two women who stuff their shopping carts with nearly a dozen bottles of Tide detergent and diapers, then put rolls of toilet paper on top. After looking around to make sure nobody is watching, they walk out of the store. Another man acts as their look-out, decoy and driver. It’s all been caught on surveillance video.
"It's getting sophisticated. Sometimes we've seen, also, an increase in violence. There’s a lot more to lose here because we’re looking at felony charges. What used to be a misdemeanor shoplift charge is now a felony charge, so they’re kind of getting more brazen in how they’re doing things,” said Detective Michael Lusk with Puyallup Police Department.
“They're trafficking that stolen property. They're off-loading that to the mom and pop store that maybe can get it on their shelves for a cheaper price. A lot of times, folks are involved in narcotics. They're selling these items to fuel a narcotics habit or they're involved in a fraud-forgery tie as well,” said Captain Scott Engle.
Two of the recent burglaries happened close to midnight, just before one of the two Safeway doors are locked for the night.
Three people have been arrested.
Puyallup police are meeting with businesses Thursday to show retailers how to look out for organized retail crime. One warning sign is whether a customer is clearing the shelves of a particular item.