Thieves strike Santa Rosa Lululemon

It's happened again: a Lululemon store a victim of a "grab and go" invasion. 

On Wednesday in Santa Rosa, the sportswear retailer was hit just minutes after it opened in the morning.

Hundreds of items, valued at almost $20,000 were taken in minutes. 

"Well, it costs us all more money, that's why we pay more for stuff," Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Marcus Sprague told KTVU, scrolling through YouTube videos of similar heists in other jurisdictions. 

Until now, Sprague's property crime investigators had seen thieves swarm the Apple Store at the downtown mall, but not elsewhere. 

"It's unusual for Santa Rosa to have a crew come into town and take that much property," said Sgt. Sprague, " but it's not unusual for the state of California."

In fact across the Bay Area this summer, at least a dozen Lululemon stores have been ripped off by organized groups who head for the high-end merchandise and pile it into bags and backpacks, as stunned employees and customers watch.  

Some of the same suspects may be responsible in multiple cases. 

Law enforcement agencies across the region are comparing notes.   

"It will be a case of all of us getting together, talking together, working together, to identify members of the crew," said Sprague.      

In Santa Rosa's case, the suspects are described as four African American women, between 20-24 years old. 

They wore black and red hoodies, and did not appear to be armed, but that's not always the case.

"Sometimes they carry weapons, they've assaulted employees," said Sprague, "not in this incident but others, so I'm sure it's in the back of employees minds and in our minds because we don't want to see anybody get hurt." 

When the women dashed out of Santa Rosa's store, their getaway car, an older black Mercedes, was waiting on a residential street.

To avoid the busier street where they might be spotted, the drivers backed down the street in reverse to get away.

"So they're just targeting that particular store, my goodness," reacted Nancy Kusich, owner of the Hallmark Store directly across from Lululemon. 

Kusich notes Montgomery Village is a Santa Rosa icon, built in 1950 as the city's first shopping plaza, and still thriving.

She has owned the store for 13 years, and worked at it for 30.

"I've been here ten years, and never seen anything like this before," said Kusich's store manager Paul.

"How can they stop this from happening, because we don't want anyone hurt. Merchandise can be replaced. People can't."

Kusich also expressed anger that such large scale, brazen thefts, threaten the survival of brick and mortar retailers.  

"We work hard to be here, and a lot of time I work for nothing, just to keep this place open, because I love this village," she said. 

Montgomery Village has a laid-back open air atmosphere, but merchants may be re-thinking security after Lululemon's big loss.

"I'm not able to to there as much as I'd like," admitted Lululemon fan Hanna Frederick, 23, "but I think the price reflects the quality." 

Frederick and a friend were enjoying an evening concert after the shops closed.

They work at a shoe store across town and have experienced the frustration of being robbed, on a smaller scale.   

"We've had a few people come in and grab handfuls of stuff and leave," said Kaitlin Collard, also 23. 
"It wasn't $20,000 worth, but hundreds and at that point there's nothing you can do." 

Police say sophisticated retail theft rings often have national, even international reach, and that high-value items are unlikely to be re-sold piecemeal, but instead end up outside California, or the U.S 

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call Santa Rosa police at (707) 528-5222.