BOSTON (CBS) —- It’s not often police ask for help in a shoplifting case.
But authorities on the North Shore hope the public can help them track down a woman possibly linked to more than $100,000 in thefts at area malls.
Peabody Police issued the alert, but would not reveal which stores they targeted.
However, WBZ was able to confirm through several employees at the Northshore Mall in Peabody the woman has been seen there.
The surveillance pictures appear to be in a cosmetics store. Although she didn’t want to go on camera, an Assistant Manager at a clothing store said, “It’s sad that this is an issue we have to be aware of, but it is the reality we have to face. We just have to be hyper aware at all times.”
The suspect is seen carrying a large bag, which the worker told WBZ-TV, is a giveaway.
“If we see someone come in with a big bag, that just sends us a red flag,” she added.
We took the story to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts which has 3,500 members statewide.
When General Counsel Ryan Kearney heard the amount possibly linked to one woman, six figures, he immediately thought this could be something more.
“It kind of triggered a light bulb in my head that it was indicative of organized retail crime,” he said.
He doesn’t know for sure, but says this suspect could be what’s called a booster, who gathers the merchandise to sell herself or for someone else.
“Typically what you’ll see is the booster which is the individual who goes into the store and steals the merchandise,” he explained. “You’re going to find the fence which is the person who is going to sell the merchandise or introduce it back into the black market then you’re going to have the ring leader or top level person.”
If that’s what’s being investigated, Police won’t yet say.
With expensive items like jewelry, cosmetics and even clothing, Kearney says it can quickly add up. “A lot of these actors we’ve experienced will hit one store and pull as much as they can get out of there and then move on to the next store and do it again,” he said.
But as it costs businesses more in security and loss prevention, the cost is unfortunately often passed on to you.
“It’s a lose lose for the honest consumer and for the businesses bottom line,” he said.
There is pending legislation in Massachusetts to define and crack down on organized retail crime. It would put in place more serious charges and help investigators tie cases across jurisdictions together more easily.
Peabody Police are defining the current case they’re investigating as shoplifting, but if the woman is located, that could change.
They say the thefts have occurred in at least three jurisdictions in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Anyone with information can call the Peabody Police Department at 978-538-6324.