Prince George’s County police warn about rise of thefts at shopping centers, malls

Christmas Eve is just two weeks away and as shoppers rush for holiday deals across the DC region, there’s a national trend happening where suspects are running into stores and leaving with armfuls of items. The surge coincides with the busiest time of year for businesses.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

Prince George’s County Police say it’s alarming that thieves are stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from stores.

FOX 5’s Sierra Fox asked Prince George’s County Police Captain Craig Winegardner why thieves are doing this.

"I think right now it’s just a crime of opportunity. It’s the holiday season. We’re still in COVID so everyone’s wearing a mask. It’s not unheard of for folks to go in and wear a mask and you don’t get the full face on camera so it’s easy for them to conceal their identity," said Winegardner. "I think right now with the holiday season if you steal these items and sell them on social media – it’s an easy way to make a quick buck."

READ MORE: Gaithersburg couple arrested in connection with multiple armed robberies

Prince George’s County Police are still investigating two thefts that happened back in October at Tanger Outlets.

The suspects are still out there. In surveillance photos, they are seen wearing masks and blatantly walking out of stores with tons of clothes in their hands.

According to Captain Winegardner, no weapons have been used during the thefts and the suspects are not robbing and assaulting people or the businesses during the criminal acts.

FOX 5 spoke with shoppers about these solo and flash mob thefts happening during the most robust time of year.

"It’s pretty dangerous. These guys are stealing a lot of clothes. It’s a lot of wasted money. Pretty scary," said Aaron Edejer.

"I just think it’s crazy that people are doing that and I’m sure that they’re getting a lot of merchandise in one swoop which is unfortunate for the stores," said Riene Rodriquez.

"It does suck because it’s not only hurting the person who’s making these items that they’re confiscating, but it’s hurting our society as well," said Ferrell.

READ MORE: Montgomery County creating task force to tackle drug market in Silver Spring

Throughout the month of December, residents may notice flashing blue lights and officers on foot walking around at designated shopping centers in the DC region.

For example, in Prince George’s County, this includes Tanger Outlets National Harbor, Rivertowne Commons Marketplace and Woodmore Towne Centre.

In Virginia, Fairfax County Police say they are not seeing an increase in these "smash and grab" crimes. However, shoppers will notice will have a higher police presence as they do every holiday season at Tysons Corner, Tysons Galleria, Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center.

DC Police say they are working with businesses to make sure they have preventative measures in place such as proper lighting and alarm systems.

Captain Winegardner says they are also making stores aware of tactics thieves use to distract them.

"Don’t put expensive items right by the door…people put stuff right up front and they’ll grab it right out the front door. Some of the more valuable things – keep them behind the counter," said Winegardner.


Prince George’s County Police say the thieves are stealing winter clothes and jackets because of how cold it is.