Four arrested in group shoplifting case

Tacoma police arrested four people suspected of stealing nearly $7,000 in merchandise from Tacoma Mall over the weekend.

Police said they arrested two teenage girls and two women, all from the Portland area, after they descended on the mall Saturday and began shoplifting. The thieves stole more than $5,500 in perfume and fragrances and $1,500 in clothes before a fragrance store security guard spotted them pilfering more merchandise and notified mall security and police.

Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said two of the four were arrested in the fragrance store.

The two others fled. One was found hiding in a large garbage bin. The other ran to a car in the parking lot where more suspected stolen items were found, Fulghum said.

The team of thieves might have hit six stores in all.

The women, who are 20 and 40, were booked into the Pierce County Jail on charges of organized retail theft with extenuating circumstances, a felony.

The girls, both 15, were booked into Remann Hall juvenile detention center on the same charge. Fulghum said police don’t know if they are related to the women. None of them are talking to police, he added.

Organized retail theft is more than simple shoplifting. Thieves work in groups, often connected by cell phones. Some act as lookouts, others distract staff while still more steal merchandise. The state Legislature passed the organized retail theft law recently to focus attention on the growing problem and increase penalties.

Two other women were identified by police in connection with the case but were not arrested because there was nothing tying them directly to the thefts, Fulghum said. He said police are reviewing surveillance video from the stores and mall and more arrests could be made.

Police said the stolen goods are being sorted out.

Mike Archbold: 253-597-8692