PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s not your typical theft ring; a group of middle-aged men ripping off stores up and down the East Coast, including here in Pittsburgh.
KDKA Investigator Marty Griffin spoke to a private investigator who says it won’t be an easy case to crack.
One group hit the Ross Park Mall Louis Vuitton store late last week. Five of them grabbed a bunch of very expensive purses and took off.
Police believe they did the same thing in Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.
Another group hit the Best Buy store on McKnight Road a few months ago. Officials say they grabbed GPS devices and high-end calculators. They are working stores around the country, too.
The transient aspect of the organized thieves makes them tough to catch.
“Because they’re going state to state, it’s hard to ID them,” said Bob Kressen, a private investigator. “Even though they get video on them, which is good to have video on somebody… unless they really band together, and work with the various vendors around the country. It’s gets very hard to ID somebody.”
It’s also tough to work with the vendors. In the case at Louis Vuitton, they did not want to release the entire video of the thieves, fearing it would create copycats.
In the case at Best Buy, they waited two months to release the video. Police believe in all likelihood the suspects, who know what they are doing, are long gone.
“They clearly have a plan in place,” says Sgt. Benjamin Dripps, of Ross Township Police. “They are not confrontational, they do speak with employees, they do browse; again, that gives us reason to believe they certainly are organized.”
The numbers are staggering, estimates anywhere from $33 billion to $35 billion a year in terms of how much merchandise is stolen every year.
That merchandise is not covered by insurance; it’s paid for by you, so you pay more for the merchandise stolen from these stores by professional thieves.
“I’d set a trap with some of the higher-end items. I’d put a GPS tracker in something, a sizeable purse; they’re very small nowadays,” says Kressen. “You find the people and catch them and set some examples. They’ve got to set examples and prosecute.”
Meantime, police say the thieves sell the items for 20 cents on the dollar to folks who then sell them again online, at flea markets or to other unscrupulous retailers.
Retail Thieves Hit Best Buy Store (12/3/12)
New Details Emerge In Designer Handbag Heist At Ross Park Mall (11/30/12)