Shoplifting is a regular occurence at Brookfield Square Mall, no doubt happening daily without notice but detected often enough to generate a generous number of police reports.
But even in that environment, events of a week beginning Jan. 24, a Thursday, through the following Wednesday, must have had the heads of Victoria's Secret managers spinning.
Five police calls went out – as did more than $1,000 worth of bras and other items, with more damaged and yet more recovered after aborted thefts.
At 1:47 p.m. that Thursday, a manager at Victoria’s Secret at Brookfield Square reported in frustration that minutes after her staff stocked a bin with 12 bras, together worth $500, they were all stolen.
She said the bin had been empty, was filled, and then no more than 10 or 15 minutes later was found empty again, just after two young women left the store.
She said they had come in to make a return, browsed briefly near the newly stocked bras and left before the loss of lingerie was noted. Store managers had no good description of the suspects and no video record.
About two hours later, in an incident thought not to be related, two Milwaukee girls, one 17 and one 16, were arrested for theft from JCPenney and a third suspected thief got away when she abandoned her friends, one of whom had a 2-year-old child with her.
They had all been seen hiding merchandise in bags, and when they tried to leave and security attempted to stop them, one stopped and cooperated, the other two bolted, and one of them was caught.
The escapee sped away in a blue Chevy Tahoe – which will figure in again later.
More calls mount up
Then on Saturday, Jan. 26, police were called to the mall to search for an unknown girl or woman who had bagged nearly $350 in merchandise from Victoria’s Secret and made off.
Mall security followed her into the parking lot, and when she saw them, she dropped the bag and re-entered the mall through JC Penney. She could not be found, but in this case, Victoria's Secret got its merchandise back.
At 8:13 that night, a 17-year-old Milwaukee girl was arrested after calls from Victoria’s Secret and other stores that she was suspected of shoplifting but hadn’t actually been seen concealing anything.
She was found in the food court, where she was found to have a "booster bag," lined with foil to defeat security sensors. She admitted she used it to steal things but hadn’t yet taken anything that night.
Police thought it possible that the girl had in fact been shoplifting but had hidden the goods or handed them off to an accomplice, but with no evidence, they couldn't make an arrest for theft.
However, informing the girl it was a crime just to possess the bag, they arrested her for "possession of a theft device."
Suspicious Chevy ties it together
At 4:16 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, Victoria’s Secret once again called police for a theft in progress, and police later stopped an 18-year-old woman suspected of the crime. But she had no merchandise on her.
But the stolen item, a sweatshirt, was quickly found ditched in the mall. It was too badly damaged to sell. Given the difficulty of proving the young woman was the thief, Victoria’s Secret decided not to prosecute, but the woman was banned from the mall for a year.
Finally, at 11:08 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, Victoria’s Secret called police one more time to report that two women or girls had just run out of the store with seven items worth almost $550 – and had escaped in a blue Chevy Tahoe.
They were believed to be the same two suspects from the theft at Victoria's Secret the previous Thursday – and who police now believe were the same two arrested later that day after ripping off JCPenney.
If so, they clearly returned not only to the mall but to the same beleaguered store after having been arrested and released on their promise to appear.
It is also possible that more of the crimes are related, in particular the lift on Saturday, Jan. 26, when $350 worth of stolen goods were abandoned.
Brookfield police and mall security officers are, obviously, on the lookout for a blue Tahoe.