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Tide Detergent Becomes The Latest Target For Thieves Across The Country

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- It's being called "Liquid Gold" on the streets and criminals are looking to cash in.

Mary Bubala reports on this unusual criminal trend.

Containers of Tide detergent are flying off store shelves across the country. The problem is, some of it's being stolen.

Surveillance video of a major heist shows Patrick Costanzo in St. Paul, Minn. He pleaded guilty to stealing as much as $6,000 worth of detergent from Wal-Mart.

Why Tide? At between $8-$20 a bottle, a full cart is worth hundreds. Police say it can be easily resold on the black market for less than retail price. And in some cases, they are selling this stuff directly for drugs.

"Drug dealers have finally realized, 'I can take this $10 rock and I can have you go out and try to steal something and get 10 bucks for it, get my $10 from you," Lt. Bradley Pyle of the Prince George's County Police Department said. "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 them to me and I take them down to the dirty store down the road and I sell them for 6 bucks a piece. So a $10 rock's now yielded me $30."

Tide thefts are a nationwide problem, including here in Maryland, where police in Prince George's County have broken up at least one theft ring.

The Safeway in Bowie was a favorite target of thieves who stole several thousand dollars worth of Tide detergent in recent months.

Prince George's County police say they arrested 18 people in one ring for stealing detergent. Most shoppers aren't even aware.

"You're engaged in your own activities. If you're here with your children, then you're oftentimes managing your kids," said Craig Muckle of Safeway, Inc.

Now, some retailers like CVS are placing security devices on Tide that trigger alarms.

Police say thieves also often sell the detergent to small mom and pop stores. With no serial numbers, it's virtually impossible to trace.

Police say thieves are stealing Red Bull and shampoo as well.

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