Fairfax County Christmas Anti-Theft Team targets holiday grinches

- The holiday shopping rush has been well underway and a special team from the Fairfax County Police Department has been hard at work adding holiday grinches to the naughty list.

The Fairfax County Christmas Anti-Theft Team (CATT) has been working the past four weeks to protect shoppers and businesses from thieves out for their holiday goods.

Fairfax County police have been beefing up their plain clothes and uniformed officers for decades, but reports that the amount of criminal around the holidays is actually up.

Over Black Friday weekend, authorities said they arrested four women from New York at Tysons Corner after they had more than $29,000 in stolen property from at least 13 different stores. Investigators said they believed the women were part of a larger crime ring.

This week, two women were arrested at the Springfield Town Center for theft and possession of drugs, according to police.

CATT said so far they've recovered more stolen property than in all of the 2016 holiday season, which is upward of $70,000.

Officials said some thieves are taking an older approach and physically pickpocketing victims while they shop.

“We have seen more cases right now of individuals where they get their billfolds stolen out of their purse or a gentleman gets his wallet lifted,” Second Lieutenant Charles Riddle with the Fairfax County Police Department explained. “Then the credit cards are used very quickly in short order, generally in the same shopping center or a few businesses away.”

Detectives said they’ve seen a large increase in return fraud where criminals steal items and then return them for store credit or at times even cash back.

Police report that credit card fraud is reportedly down as it appears the new security chips in credit cards are working. In the four weeks they’ve been on assignment, CATT has reported no cases of credited card fraud compared to last year when they saw several cases per week.

Authorities urged shoppers to keep their purses and wallets in front of them or in their front pocket to help deter thieves. They also reminded shoppers to be cautious of what they leave in their vehicles when heading into a store and urged them to hide valuables.

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