Shop owners band together in hopes to nab 'Cellphone Bandits'

Shop owners band together in hopes to nab 'Cellphone Bandits' »Play Video
One shop owner in the Pearl District snapped this photo of one of the alleged cellphone thieves. Since the man has not been arrested or charged with a crime, KATU News has blurred his face.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Shop owners are fighting crime by forming their own dragnet to try and catch the criminals stealing cellphones from their shops in Northwest Portland.

The shop owners call them the "Cellphone Bandits."

One owner in the Pearl District snapped a photo of one of the men a few weeks ago. A couple of shops owners identified the man as one of the guys swiping cellphones.

On Friday, store owners spotted the suspects again and within minutes another shop owner chased after him.

"I was looking at him and thought immediately, 'that's the same guy,'" said Sarah Bibb who spotted the thief in her store Friday on Northwest Lovejoy.

She stared him down, gave him the hint he better leave and when he did she knew exactly where he was headed next.

"Because they took a left under the bridge at Johnson, and I was like, they are going into the Pearl, they're just going to do their sweep," she said.

She called with a warning to other stores in the Pearl.

"And then I called Jo at Physical Element and told her the same thing. And James, her boyfriend, her superhero boyfriend, was there," Sarah said.

"We received a phone call from another store, saying they were just here. They were trying to just case, and they were driving a black Mustang primered convertible," said James Dees.

BINGO.

"Just then, I look out and sure enough I see the car going by low and slow in front of Jo's store," James said.

He went after them. He caught up to the guy and asked him about the iPad he had on him.

"I say, 'Do you know what an off-duty officer looks like?'"

In response, the man tossed the iPad at James and took off. James retrieved the iPad and took after him. But he couldn't keep up. But he did run into police.

"Went up to Mounted Patrol, handed them the iPad and told them the same story I just told you," he said.

Shop owners are sure they have their guy – or at least one of them.

Police questioned the man -- but did not arrest him.  At this point-- police aren't saying why -- but one thing's for sure-- these shop owners aren't going to rest until police make the arrests.

We first heard about this story when one of the store owners tweeted us. If there's something you think we should know about, you can email us at newstips@katu.com.