Shoplifting groups targeting Minneapolis area

Nov. 19--Edina police say they have arrested two people in connection with an elaborate shoplifting scheme in which thieves have targeted stores at Southdale Center and possibly other malls.

Police Chief Mike Siitari confirmed that thieves have hit at least two stores at Southdale and believe that they've also hit many other shops in the mall at 66th Street and France Avenue S. He also said that police are conducting an active investigation and are working with police in other communities to determine if the crooks have hit malls in neighboring cities.

Police began investigating earlier this month after one of the shops victimized called authorities to report a substantial losses. While employees never saw anybody take anything, employees noticed the same groups of people coming through time and time again, and merchandise missing after they left.

In one case police were able to trace suspect descriptions and a license plate to nab two suspects, but there are likely more out there, he said. "These organized groups don't usually just hit one mall," Siitari said. "We are working with other agencies. We are just not sure of the scope of this." Siitari could not give more details on the investigation, but said he is unsure if the culprits are local, from out of town, or both. He said it is not uncommon for organized groups to target malls.

Often they use a distraction technique. Some of the culprits draw the attention of clerks while others move in and "steal stuff" Siitari said.

The crooks also carry tools to remove tags and resort to other tactics such as filling bags with merchandise. "They are quick and they are very good at what they do," Siitari said.