Maplewood police track down suspects in Black Friday 'grab-and-run' retail thefts

A police squad car sits outside a Best Buy store
A Maplewood police squad car sits outside a Best Buy store on Wednesday. The store was one of three hit by a group of “grab and go” thieves on Black Friday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Maplewood police say they think they’ve identified the group of thieves that struck at three Best Buy stores in Blaine, Maplewood and Burnsville last weekend. 

The thefts started Friday night in Blaine as a group of people walked into one of the electronic retailer’s outlets, grabbed some high value merchandise and ran out. They appeared to be targeting televisions, tablets, hoverboards and other electronic items.

Maplewood police Lt. Joe Steiner said there were 10 to 16 people involved in the thefts and estimated they took just over $7,000 worth of merchandise. Steiner said the thefts took as little as five minutes. 

“This type of criminal behavior in unacceptable. ... It is very detrimental to our community business and also to public safety,” Steiner said Wednesday at a press conference at Maplewood City Hall. “This behavior causes panic and chaos.” 

Two men speak on a podium.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans and Maplewood police Lt. Joe Steiner talk about efforts to track down a grab-and-go large-scale retail theft at Best Buy stores in three different Twin Cities suburbs last Friday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Steiner said investigators haven’t made any arrests yet but expected to file felony theft charges with the Ramsey County Attorney’s office next week. 

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans said that financial crimes investigators with his agency have joined the effort, helping coordinate local investigations and lending analytical and forensic help when needed. 

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Evans said that thefts have been trending down this year in Minnesota, but large-scale, group theft is on the rise.

“We are seeing an increase in these types of large-scale thefts ... organized criminal rings,” said Evans. “The message that we want to send today is that law enforcement is working together and organized retail theft will not be tolerated in Minnesota.” 

The thefts were part of a wave of such crimes around the country last week, hitting high-end retailers, Home Depot outlets and other stores. 

Police say customers can help curb the thefts, and suggested that if they see a group of people entering a retail store, that they call 911 and report suspicious activity. But they also said bystanders should not intervene in the incident.

“Stay away from the incident in general,” Steiner said.