Disbanding serial shoplifting rings

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Updated: 12/11/2012 10:30 pm Published: 12/11/2012 10:23 pm

Police are disbanding theft rings all over Green Country.

Monday night, a group of women was arrested after they took Broken Arrow Police on a car chase.

Five women were arrested, Shahara Barnes, 29, Juliet Harding, 22, Ceonna Brown, 21, Marie McCullem, 31, Tries Boyd, 36, in connection to stolen merchandise from Ross in Broken Arrow and stores from Woodland Hills Mall.

The chase started in Broken Arrow at Ross near 101st and Elm and came to a halt at 71st and Mingo where Tulsa Police assisted.

When cuffed, police found stolen loot from other stores as well.

When the women were arrested, police found $1,500 in stolen merchandise from Ross. Retail crime investigators say it can take a thief less than 10 to fifteen minutes to steal that much from a store.

Don’t be deceived by the women, TPD Retail Crime investigators said Boyd and Barnes are known shoplifters.

Tulsa police patrol officers are familiar with these type of thieves known as “boosters”.

"They are not stealing bubblegum or makeup,” said TPD Officer Mike Avey.

Serial shoplifters go for bigger ticket items such as electronics, clothes and jewelry.

Monday night, Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Michael Smith, 38, in a stolen car. Deputies found stolen loot from a Lowes.

“There are a lot of creative shoplifters . I've seen them grab and run I've seen the nerve of people change. They have gotten more aggressive in their stealing," said Tina Johnston.

She works part time in retail.

"They work in groups, I've seen them come in my work. They come in a big group and they smash and run and some of them don't even look that they are alarmed,” said Johnston.

During TPD's Operation Safe shopper, undercover officers blend right in with other shoppers. TPD’s Retail Crime Unit is targeting 20 serial shoplifters through the holiday season.

They already caught Deontae Thomas at Best Buy Friday night. He’s accused of working with Michelle “Merei” Dewitt and a 16-year-old to steal $2,000 in electronics.

In Thomas' rental car, police found stolen Coach purses, wallets and a watch that had been swiped from Dillard’s at Promenade.

Police said Thomas had four warrants for shoplifting.

"Stealing is wrong, it drives up the prices,” said shopper Chuck Wallace.

Other shoppers said they end up paying for it.

"It's a terrible, terrible, terrible thing,” said shopper Chris Stephenson.

Police said the City of Tulsa loses about $2 million in sales tax money to organized retail crime rings.

"They are organized and working in and out-of-state rings," said Avey.

Police recommend you avoid confronting a shoplifter.  

"You can get everything you have, again. It's not worth your life. Most of the time those people are desperate and they can hurt you,” said Johnston.

The workers are just as scared. FOX23 spoke to local retailers but they did not want to go on camera and openly talk about the shoplifting problem. One worker told FOX23 News after he turned in a shoplifter, the thief threatened him.

Police said several of the department stores in work with police to prevent and track shoplifters.

A spokesperson for Woodland Hills Mall said some of the retailers in the mall have a “ban list” and shoppers on that list are not allowed inside the mall.

Police recommend if you see a shoplifter to report it to an employee.

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