MISSION VALLEY (CBS 8) – A shoplifting sting at Fashion Valley Mall triggered a chaotic chase on Tuesday night, when police moved in on the suspected thieves, who took off running through the crowded mall.
San Diego Police burglary detectives were conducting surveillance on an organized group of sophisticated shoplifters at Fashion Valley around 7:30p.m. Some members of the crew appeared to be keeping watch on two SUVs, one with a stolen license plate, while another team loaded thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise into the vehicles.
The two suspects standing near the vehicles were talking on cell phones. According to police, detectives believed that the men were communicating with two "mules" who traveled back and forth between the mall and the SUVs, loading stolen merchandise.
Police say this is the third time the same crew of burglars has targeted Fashion Valley in the last two weeks. The thieves were taking thousands of dollars in clothing, jewelry, and purses.
Investigators say they were using sophisticated "booster" bags, lined with aluminum foil, to sneak merchandise out of stores, often while one suspect distracted store workers.
Detectives waited for the shoplifters to load the vehicles before officers swooped in. Around 8:05p.m. plainclothes officers in unmarked cars attempted to pull over the suspect vehicles.
When the police made their presence known, some of the suspects ran off on foot while several others drove off in a Lincoln Navigator, leading police on a brief pursuit. They stopped near Friars Road and SR-163, bailing out of the car and running into a nearby riverbed.
Police called in K-9 units and the ABLE police helicopter to help with the search for the thieves. They also searched the Fashion Valley parking structure, found and arrested another suspect who was attempting to hide.
Two thieves are still on the loose. They are described as a Hispanic man and Hispanic woman.
Investigators say burglaries at retail stores tend to increase leading up to the holiday season.
Nobody was injured or threatened during the sting.