Stores are ganging up on shoplifters

MONROE — The surveillance footage showed a skinny man walking into a fitting room.

He emerged a plump marshmallow, shrouded in stolen clothes.

In another case, two women grabbed high-end toothbrushes and ran for the fire exit. In another, a man filled his backpack with boosted booze and calmly walked out the front door.

Stories of shoplifting are often the same. That’s why police and business owners have been meeting in Monroe over the past few months to share surveillance information and pictures — and build cases.

Albertsons, Safeway, Kohl’s and Lowe’s all had representatives at Thursday’s meeting at the Ben Franklin crafts store off U.S. 2.

The same thieves go after different kinds of stores and goods throughout the region, they said.

One company would share surveillance stills while others chimed in if they recognized the suspect.

Monroe and Snohomish police officers helped provide some of the names. They warned the companies which offenders are known to be hostile, which have violent criminal histories and which are under ongoing criminal investigation.

Repeat shoplifters are responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in thefts. Shoplifting can involve couples, friends and families working together to steal expensive items and return them for gift cards or cash. Goods are also sold to pawn shops. Some of the suspects involve young children in their schemes.

Loss prevention officers have to work within company policies, and the law, to catch them.

Monroe police Sgt. Paul Ryan told a story of a woman at a dollar store trying to skip out with six loaded grocery carts. She was apprehended.

One case involved thieves who used stickers, like those for addresses on houses, to change their license plate numbers. The problem was, a “3” was stuck on upside down.

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Edward Smith, assigned to the town of Snohomish, said he recognized up to 20 percent of the faces shown on the screen Thursday.

Police wanted to get business owners more involved in a crackdown on shoplifting, graffiti and related problems, Ryan said. The meetings started in May.

“By showing the photos and identifying the suspects, we’re hoping it will lead to a greater number of apprehensions that would reduce shoplifting,” Ryan said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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