Suspects arrested after aluminum foil used in shoplifting

SNOHOMISH — Money-making schemes are a popular topic of conversation among the criminal community. One such scheme ended in three arrests earlier this month in Snohomish. A group of suspects was accused of working in tandem, using aluminum foil to defeat anti-shoplifting devices.

The trick is widely known among heroin addicts who pilfer goods to support their habit, Police Chief John Flood said. He credited the Nov. 2 bust at the Snohomish Station Kohl’s to increased anti-shoplifting patrols and proactive store security.

Snohomish police started seeing thieves trying the foil ruse about a year ago, Flood said. The crooks wrap bits of foil around the security tags.

“Because they have plenty of foil around to smoke heroin, they found another use for some of it,” Flood said.

The suspects in the Nov. 2 bust were caught with about $1,000 in merchandise, Flood said. They were arrested for investigation of second-degree retail theft with special circumstances, a felony offense.

Organized shoplifting has been a consistent theme among addicts since the early 2000s, Flood said.

Other police departments, including those in Everett, Edmonds and Lynnwood, also have seen thieves line their backpacks or purses with foil to hide stolen items from security devices.

The cops call them “booster bags.”

“Booster bags have been in use by criminals pretty much ever since security sensors were established,” Edmonds detective Corp. Damian Smith said.

The foil ruse was more common in Edmonds a few years ago than now, Sgt. Mark Marsh said.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.

A local Fred Meyer representative recently wrote to Everett crime prevention officer Eddie Golden that the store is seeing a lot of shoplifting by thieves using foil.

The foil thefts haven’t been seen recently in Lake Stevens, Monroe or Arlington, according to those police departments. Flood, the Snohomish chief, also reminds shoppers not to toss their receipts in the store parking lots. Discarded receipts provide crooks a means to steal the same items and validate the returns.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

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