Accused serial shoplifter arrested in Gig Harbor sting, along with nearly 20 others

Pay for it, or put it back. That's the message from Gig Harbor Police. In a matter of two days, they arrested almost 20 people for shoplifting. 

The police chief says they positioned officers at retail stores all over Gig Harbor late last week.  He says the sting caught a mix of shoplifters from all over the region, ranging in age from 12 to 53.  

>> RELATED: PHOTOS: Over 20 people arrested in Gig Harbor retail theft sting operation

"It’s one of our biggest crimes in Gig Harbor, and again all over Western Washington," said Kelly Busey, Police Chief of Gig Harbor.  

These are some of the images of the suspects that were arrested during the two-day operation. 

"The good news is that we arrested 19 people during those two days. The bad news is, we arrested 19 people," said Busey.  " We could do that almost every night. Retail theft is rampant throughout all of Western Washington, and it consumes a lot of time. We are trying to send a message to criminals. We are focused on them."

Police say they collaborated with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office and local stores to conduct the operation, which involved some officers disguised in plain clothes, some in uniform.   

"We did a combination of both uniform presence, to be a deterrent, working covertly with plain clothes officers and with the loss prevention agents in the stores," said Busey. 

Some arrests were caught on camera, along with images of merchandise that the suspects were accused of trying to steal.   

"We are seeing a mixture of both organized crime rings and just certain offenders that go out and steal from stores on their own," said Busey. 

Busey said the arrests ranged from first-time offenders to practiced criminals.  He says one repeat offender, Antara Pok, was wanted on multiple warrants including four counts of retail theft, three counts of second degree burglary, trespassing and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.  The warrants were from several jurisdictions including; Lakewood, Pierce County, Tacoma and Sumner. 


PHOTOS: Over 20 people arrested in Gig Harbor retail theft sting operation

Gig Harbor Police arrested over 20 people in a retail theft sting operation that spanned just two days.

Pok was later booked in the Pierce County Jail and is facing charges that include 2nd degree burglary. 

"That’s the message we want to send is that we do take retail theft seriously and we will continue to do these sorts of operations," said Busey. 

The chief says arrests also included both those accused of being lone shoplifters and those accused of involvement in organized theft rings.   He says it's not a victimless crime, as the cost is eventually passed on to the consumer.  The chief says more stings are planned in the future.