Shoplifters struck two new downtown Sonora clothing stores this week, and one thief remains at large.
Be Dazzled and Lady Couture, both located at 160 S. Washington St., were hit Sunday and the latter again on Tuesday.
Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the boutiques' owners reported to Sonora police that more than $170 worth of clothing was stolen from their stores, Chief Mark Stinson said.
Lady Couture owner Leioko Romero said a woman entered her store, selected items of all different sizes and spent about 10 to 20 minutes in the fitting room. Romero checked the fitting room after the woman left and found tags and empty hangers.
She notified Be Dazzled owner Linda Paré, who also discovered hangers and tags in her dressing room.
"I've only been open four days, so obviously my eyes are being opened," Paré said. "I'm so trustworthy … It's too bad."
She said she will "absolutely" press charges if the woman is caught.
Paré moved to Sonora eight months ago and opened the store because she couldn't find employment in the county.
"It took everything I had just to open this store," she said. "We're just trying to make a buck."
On Tuesday, also about 5 p.m., the Sonora Police Department received a call that items had again been stolen from Lady Couture - this time by three teenage girls.
Romero also told Paré, who followed the girls to Addictions Spray Tanning & Fashion at 128 S. Washington St. and told owner Sarah Anderson that police were on their way. Paré said the girls reacted like "deer in the headlights."
"I guess I was the last stop on the spree," Anderson said. "(Paré) was able to come down here and stop them before anything else happened."
The girls threw items into bushes and ran down the stairs into Coffill Park, where they were contacted by police, Paré said.
Stinson said two of the girls were 16 and one was 14. All were from the Bay Area.
Sonora police cited one of the older girls on suspicion of petty theft and released them to their parents.
Stinson said the teen possessed stolen items totaling $11 and police returned the items to Lady Couture.
Romero, however, said she was missing closer to $70 worth of items - a bracelet, a watch and two headbands. The bracelet and watch have not been returned to her.
Anderson said police showed her a bag of items appearing to be from downtown stores and asked if any of the items belonged to her.
Stinson said the items were found in the 16-year-old's possession but the only ones confirmed stolen were from Lady Couture.
Anderson said business owners downtown have discussed exchanging cell phone numbers so they can send mass text messages when a shoplifter is on the loose.
"As store owners, we need to kind of protect ourselves," she said.
She also hopes merchants can meet with law enforcement officials to learn how they should handle shoplifting.
Paré wants to demonstrate that she and other shopkeepers take shoplifting seriously, and discourage young people from making it a habit.
"We're not just going to say, well, empty your pockets and don't do it again because we're not actually doing them any benefit by doing that," she said.