Police investigating mass thefts at two Best Buy stores in Twin Cities suburbs

Authorities in two Twin Cities suburbs are investigating incidents in which groups of people entered Best Buy stores on Friday night and stole merchandise.

Maplewood police reported that officers were called to the Best Buy store on County Road D, near the Maplewood Mall, just after 8 p.m. Friday.

"Maplewood officers arrived on scene and learned from store employees that a large group of approximately 10 to 12 adult and juvenile suspects entered the store at the same time, working together to steal multiple high value items in a 'grab and run' theft," authorities reported in a news release.

The suspects reportedly targeted TVs, tablets and hoverboards, among other items. They were gone by the time officers arrived.

At about the same time and about 25 miles away, police in Burnsville were called to a report of a similar incident at the Best Buy store on Aldrich Avenue, near the Burnsville Center mall.

According to KARE-TV, Burnsville police reported about 20 to 30 people entered that store and stole merchandise, leaving before officers arrived. Authorities told KARE that no weapons were used and there were no reports of injuries.

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Maplewood police said they're looking into any possible connections between the two incidents, and said the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is involved in the investigation.

Similar mass thefts have been reported elsewhere in the country, including a number of recent cases in California in which groups of thieves, some carrying crowbars and hammers, have stormed or broken into stores and snatched merchandise.

In those cases, officials have said the thefts are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit people to steal merchandise in stores throughout the country and then sell it online. Experts and law enforcement officials say the thefts are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season gets underway.

Best Buy issued a statement Saturday, in the wake of the two Minnesota incidents, saying "retailers across the country are seeing spikes in crime. These incidents have been, by and large, non-violent though often traumatic for those who witnessed them. As an industry, we are working with local law enforcement and taking additional security precautions where it makes sense."

"We are also working at the federal level to pass a law that would make the online re-selling of these stolen goods much more difficult, materially reducing the incentive to commit the crimes in the first place."