“Grime wave” targets thefts of Tide detergent

Posted at 10:45 PM, Mar 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-13 22:48:30-04

Containers of Tide detergent are flying off the shelves in stores across the country.

The problem is -- they are being stolen. Tide—not jewelry, not cash-- has become the latest “hot” item to be targeted by crooks.

CNN reports that Patrick Costanzo in St. Paul, Minnesota pleaded guilty to charges that he stole as much as $6,000 dollars worth of detergent and other items, over several visits to Wal-Mart.

In California, the culprits really cleaned up, thieving over $25,000, according to CBS reports.

The thefts have hit even closer to the Richmond area as well. CNN reported that at a Safeway in Bowie, Maryland, one alleged theft-ring, stole several-thousand dollars worth of Tide detergent.

The detergent costs around $8.20 a bottle, so a full cart could be worth hundreds. Police told CNN that Tide can be easily re-sold on the black-market for less than retail price.

And the cleaning supply can even be traded for some dirty habits, like drugs.

"Yes, yes. Drug dealers have finally realized, 'I can take this 10-dollar rock and I can have you go out and try to steal something and get 10-bucks for it, get my 10-dollars from you. Or I can tell you I want five bottles of Tide instead. Now once they go in here and steal those five bottles of Tide, then they can turn around and give' em to me and I take 'em down to the dirty store down the road and I sell 'em for 6-bucks a piece so a 10-dollar rock's now yielded me 30-dollars,” said Lt. Bradley Pyle with Prince George County, Maryland police, to CNN.

Police in Prince George’s county, Maryland say they've arrested 18 people in one ring, for stealing detergent.

The thieves steal in bulk, and have a well choreographed strategy to pull-off the “grime wave.”

Police and store officials told CNN that the thieves were so organized; they acted almost like NASCAR pit-crews. Security said that the thieves left carts in the aisles as blockers, maintained lookouts, and then piled Tide into carts, throwing jackets over the goods and rolling out the door.

CNN said that some retailers, like CVS are placing security devices on Tide that will trigger alarms.

Although, a spokesperson for CVS told the Daily Press in Newport News that detergent theft is not a new issue, but rather a commonplace crime.

Police in Newport News plan to release the official numbers and an explanation of the detergent larceny on Wednesday, says Lou Thurston, a public information officer for the department, according to the Daily Press.

Information from CNN, CBS and the Daily Press all contributed to this report.