The Connecticut SUV was packed to the roof with clothes: bras from Victoria’s Secret, stacks of sweaters, shirts and pants from Abercrombie & Fitch, says the Danbury (Ct.) News-Times. The problem: the hangers and security tags were still attached to most of the loot. A state trooper making a routine traffic stop last week nabbed three people with nearly $19,000 worth of stolen clothes from a West Hartford mall. “By the sheer dollar amount, I would consider these people professional shoplifters. That is pretty apparent,” said state police spokesman William Tate.
In the retail industry, it is known as “organized retail theft.” Small groups of shoplifters roam the region stealing high-priced or everyday items – from notebook computers to cold medicine to push-up bras. They then resell the merchandise on the black market, at New York City flea markets or Internet auction sites like eBay. Professionals are responsible for more than $25 billion in losses a year, says the National Retail Federation. A September survey of retail executives showed professional shoplifters are getting more active – and more violent. “Organized crime does not only affect a retailer’s bottom line, it also affects the safety and security of their employees and customers,” says the federation’s Joseph LaRocca. Retailers have been lobbying Congress to make organized shoplifting rings a federal offense. Shoplifters have been known to use “booster bags,” such as the alleged pro thieves caught last week. The bags look like normal shopping bags but are lined with a material that allows it to slip past security detectors without setting off alarms.