Why are thieves stealing Tide laundry detergent in Connecticut?

After a group of people were caught on video stealing large bottles of Tide laundry detergent from a Connecticut grocery store this week, officials say the theft is part of a larger trend.

After a group of people were caught on video stealing large bottles of Tide laundry detergent from a Connecticut grocery store this week, officials say the theft is part of a larger trend.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

OXFORD — The video opens with what appears to be a normal scene outside a grocery store: Two people loading up the trunk of an SUV with items from their shopping cart.

The footage continued as the pair quickly threw item after item into the car, parked in the fire lane at the store’s entrance. One of the carts and the back of the SUV was nearly filled with large bottles of Tide laundry detergent. The person shooting the video then turned to reveal a minivan also parked in the fire lane with two other people filling its trunk with what appears to be paper towels and even more bottles of Tide.

The video was capturing what police have described as a brazen daytime shoplifting incident.

“I honestly thought it was a joke,” Wayne Pesch, president of the Connecticut Food Association, a group that represents grocers in the state, said about the video.

State police have since said the group is believed to be connected with other similar incidents throughout Connecticut. Investigators believe they have identified two of the suspects involved, whose identities were not immediately released on Friday. The minivan seen in the video was recovered in New Haven, police said.

While Pesch said other thefts are “not necessarily as brazen” as the incident caught on video in Oxford on Tuesday, grocers face the prospect of theft “365 days a year.”

Tide, he noted, is often targeted by thieves along with baby formula and energy drinks because those more expensive items can be readily resold on the black market.

While several Connecticut police departments said they haven’t seen large-scale thefts of laundry detergent, Tide-brand detergent, in particular, has emerged as a favorite among thieves in recent years, according to the Associated Press.

That’s for a number of reasons — it’s a commodity everyone needs, it’s a popular well-known brand, it doesn’t spoil and the big bottles retail for around $20.

Pesch noted thieves could probably offload the stolen detergent for around $10 a bottle.

The theft in Oxford points to a larger issue of theft for food retailers, Pesch said, who he said operate on thin margins. Some retailers have announced store closures, citing shoplifting and “organized retail crime.”

Some of the association’s members have installed facial-recognition software to combat theft, which can cost store owners thousands of dollars.

“You’ve got to sell a lot of peanut butter to make up for that,” Pesch said.

Pesch said workers shouldn’t intervene directly, but take a note or photo and alert their supervisor or law enforcement. He likened it to concerns he previously raised about asking retail workers to enforce masking at stores.

“We’re not going to put people in harm’s way,” he said, saying asking people to confront or stopping someone from stealing who could potentially be armed is a “no-win” situation.

“We’ll do our job,” he said, “we’ll let law enforcement do their job.”