BETHEL PARK (KDKA) — Police in Bethel Park are worried about teams of shoplifters hitting stores this holiday season after three women were arrested earlier this month for shoplifting together at the South Hills Village Mall.
Police say these three women knew what they were doing, making off with thousands of dollars in merchandise from Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret, and they’re not the first team of shoplifters to hit the mall.
Dozens and dozens of retail stores line Route 88 and fill South Hills Village in Bethel Park. It’s a huge magnet for shoplifters. Now police have an even tougher shoplifting scheme to deal with.
“We’re seeing people coming in in teams of twos, threes or fours and going throughout the mall hitting stores,” Bethel Park Police Chief Timothy O’Connor said.
Just last week, three women were nabbed at Victoria’s Secret, where they were caught leaving a dressing room. Police say they had concealed more than $1,000 in clothes.
Police say it’s harder to catch them when they work as a team.
“They can distract the clerks while someone [else] is actually making off with the merchandise,” O’Connor said.
Forty-year-old Latasha Rippley, 31-year-old Toya Heard and 25-year-old Jazelle Hardy — all from Dayton, Ohio — were all arrested. Inside their rental car, police say they found another $1,000 worth of clothing stolen from Macy’s, and they had a device to remove the security tag off of the stolen items.
“When they have devices to remove or burn off or cover the security devices and defeat security, it becomes much more problematic for us,” O’Connor said.
What concerns police even more is they found a 9mm pistol inside their car.
All three were locked up in the Allegheny County Jail. As of earlier Thursday, two of them had posted bond. Police are investigating the possibility that they hit more malls between Pittsburgh and Dayton.
Meanwhile, police are stepping up patrols at the mall and they’re making a promise for thieves who get caught: “we intend to put you in the Allegheny County Jail for the holidays.”