A concerning crime trend involving teenagers is being reported in multiple Washington counties.
Groups of teenagers who have the intention of stealing wallets and purses are outnumbering and distracting employees, according to law enforcement officials. Since February, teens have targeted more than 12 stores in areas ranging from Seattle, Redmond to Renton.
Now, there are more reports from additional counties.
KIRO 7 learned businesses in Snohomish County and Thurston County have experienced the same type of crime recently.
The Thurston County Sheriff's Office released surveillance pictures of a theft at Winco Foods in Lacey on May 29th, showing two young suspects wearing hoodies in the store. Deputies say the teens stole an employee’s wallet from an employee break area and used it to purchase more than $1000 in pre-paid gift cards.
Two days later and four counties away, Main Street Books in Monroe was alarmed to see a group of teens return to the shop. Owner Emily Newman recognized the situation immediately.
She had her wallet stolen by a similar group in March.
"So this time, I was keeping an eagle eye on them and I think that's when they realized that it wasn't going to be their spot," Newman said.
Surveillance cameras captured the men walking towards another business.
"You could see them go into the offices next door but before police could get here, they had already gotten the wallet," Newman explains.
The bookstore owner had her first experience with the group on March 5.
"A couple of them distracted me by asking me some questions. I couldn't refuse to help them without being rude," she says, "One of them snuck behind my desk and took my wallet."
Newman wasn't surprised to learn how widespread the crime seemed to be. This isn't the store owner's first experience with crime. A few years ago, she was robbed at gunpoint. Yet something about this crime trend worries her.
"They're very organized. I mean, someone has definitely taught and trained them," she said. "The guy who held me up, he was a single drug addict. This group, they're so organized and they have such a system down."
In most cases, female employees are working alone when the group targets the store.
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