Local Verizon stores hit by rash of distraction-style thefts

'They definitely know what they are doing'

SPRING TWP., Pa. - Police are on the hunt for a group of thieves that has been caught on camera hitting cell phone stores around the region.

Nearly 10 people could be behind the rash of distraction-style thefts at Verizon stores in and around Berks County, police said.

The group distracts employees before taking off with cell phones and, sometimes, cash, according to police, who added that one member of the group is even accompanied by a child.

"It happens within a few minutes. They're in and out and that's it," said Ofc. Mark Williams, Spring Township Police Department. "They definitely know what they are doing."

Spring Township police are investigating a theft at the Verizon store in the 2600 block of Shillington Road on September 7.

Williams said the group of people enters each store with a plan.

"Each person enters the store and goes to a different part of the store and is looking at the items and distracting the employees," he explained.

Williams is now working with police around the region. Similar incidents involving the group have been reported in Caernarvon Township, Berks County; Downingtown and Caln Township in Chester County; Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County; Towamencin Township in Montgomery County; and even one in Delaware.

"Who knows how far this stretches and what dollar amounts are involved as far losses?" Williams told 69 News.

Police said the group has been spotted in an early-2000s Toyota Sienna van with a temporary Texas registration. Officials also said group members have an accent, possibly Russian or Baltic.

Anyone with information should contact Williams at 610-678-3432 or email him at and refer to case 17-009519.

Anonymous tips can also be passed along to Crime Alert Berks County via anonymous text to 847411, starting the message with keyword alertberks, or by calling 877-373-9913.

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