NATICK - Traveling thieves, who worked their way up the East Coast stealing digital cameras and laptop computers, have repeatedly hit Circuit City's location on Rte. 9, police said.
Traveling thieves, who worked their way up the East Coast stealing digital cameras and laptop computers, have repeatedly hit Circuit City's location on Rte. 9, police said.
The group, which includes at least one man and two women, was apparently spooked last week after police and store security wised up to scheme. They left the Natick Circuit City last Saturday without stealing anything, Detective John Haswell said.
They have not returned, but the same group apparently stole several pieces of electronic equipment from a Circuit City in Bethlehem, Pa., on Monday.
"We believe this scam has cost Circuit City $50,000 to $60,000," said Haswell. "They're on the move and they're successful. They're pretty active in this area in the summer. During the winter, they're more active down South."
The group, which might have as many as five members, has been traveling up the East Coast from Florida as the warmer weather approached.
In May, Haswell said he began to investigate a couple where digital cameras, laptop computers and possibly some flat screen televisions were targeted.
"As time went on unfortunately after four or five incidents (police suspected) that the group we were looking at were traveling thieves," Haswell said.
The group has hit stores in other Massachusetts cities including Burlington, Holyoke and Springfield, as well as Salem, N.H., he said.
Working with store security, Haswell reviewed security tapes to find out how the thieves were stealing the equipment.
He said the man filled the carriage with boxes and then steered it toward the cameras and computers. The women got on opposite sides of the carriage while he crawled into it. The women and boxes shielded the man while he opened up the cabinets that contained the expensive equipment.
The man took the items out of the cabinet and loaded them into "booster bags," located underneath the women's skirts. The bags would shield the items from setting off security alarms. They then left the store without buying anything.
"We believe there may be possibly up to two more players in this," said Haswell. "We think there is a driver and another player who could be acting as a diversion. Many of the stores, the staffing is low, so the diversion would ask someone for help with another item they had no intention of buying so the others would be left alone."
But, on Saturday, store employees knew what to look for, and it appeared they may have spooked the group, who left the store quickly. They drove off in a dark-colored van with tinted windows and invalid New Jersey license plates, the detective said.
On Monday, Haswell said he was working with security about plans on how to catch the group when the Bethlehem Circuit City e-mailed the Natick store about thefts and e-mailed some photos, which matched those of the local thieves.
Although they appear to be out of the area, they could be back, Haswell said.
"Once they're successful in an area, they keep returning," he said.
(Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)