Police have identified "multiple" suspects in connection to "coordinated" thefts at three Twin Cities Best Buy stores on Black Friday, Maplewood police Lt. Joe Steiner said at a news conference Wednesday.
A "large group" of 10-16 people, in a coordinated effort, walked into the Best Buy at 1795 County Road D East in Maplewood on Nov. 26 and stole multiple "high-value" items, such as TVs, hoverboards and tablets, Steiner said. The value of the thefts totaled about $7,000.
Police were called to the store at about 8:10 p.m. but the suspects were already gone.
Steiner said the suspects were "in and out rather quickly," spending under 5 minutes in the store. They walked in, picked up the merchandise, walked out without paying, then got into vehicles and drove away.
Related [Nov. 23]: Best Buy considering added security to counter organized retail crime
Investigators determined the group involved in the Maplewood incident was also involved in mass thefts at a Best Buy in Blaine earlier in the day, and at the Best Buy in Burnsville after the Maplewood incident.
Bring Me The News has reached out to the Blaine and Burnsville police departments for more information.
Police have identified "multiple" suspects from the Twin Cities metro area so far but no one has been arrested, Steiner said, noting they hope to move the investigation along "very quickly." The plan is to submit the cases to the county attorney's office for charging consideration next week.
Investigators at the three police departments are working with Best Buy and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to identify additional suspects. Steiner said police received multiple tips from the public that are helping in the investigation, and Best Buy has high-quality surveillance video of the incident.
Police plan to release surveillance video in the near future.
"We are taking this very seriously," Steiner said, calling this type of behavior "detrimental" to local businesses and a risk to public safety, as these incidents can cause mass panic and chaos.
Items stolen in incidents like this are frequently sold online and can be difficult to track, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said during Wednesday's news conference. Police are still investigating whether anything stolen on Black Friday has been sold online, Steiner said.
Police are seeing more of these coordinated, "large-scale thefts" across the Twin Cities, marking a "concerning trend" over the last year to six months, Evans said, despite larceny being down this year compared to last year.
The group involved in the aforementioned thefts has not been linked to any other mass thefts at Best Buy stores in Minnesota, Evans noted.
Retail theft is nothing new but Evans said these organized groups that could create chaos and dangerous situations won't be tolerated.
The groups understand it's easy to overwhelm security guards, Evans said, noting it would be dangerous for one security guard to stop 20 people, which is why law enforcement needs to get out in front of this and hold people accountable for their actions.
Police said if you're shopping and see a mass group of people walk into a large retail store quickly, call 911 and say you see something suspicious. But don't get physically involved — if you want to assist police, take note of suspect information and vehicle information but stay away, Steiner said.