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LAKEVIEW — The girls at Taboo Tabou are going to need some matching capes to go with their handcuffs and whips.
The workers helped nab a group of teens they said stole bags of merchandise from the adult toy and lingerie shop, which opened last week at 843 W. Belmont Ave., in addition to multiple other stores near the Belmont “L” station.
SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE SUSPECTS CAPTURED ON SURVEILLANCE VIDEO.
“Every single one stood their ground and had some part in this, which is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen a group of girls do,” said co-owner Alexis Thomas.
Three people were arrested and charges are pending as of Monday evening, police said. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) declined comment through a spokeswoman.
Two Taboo Tabou employees were preparing to close up Sunday evening when a group of five people came inside asking for an empty bag to hold handfuls of merchandise from another store, along with some food.
When Alex Cuzzo, one of the workers, handed the group a bag, they almost immediately ran downstairs, where Taboo’s lingerie and bachelorette party items are kept.
“I had a gut feeling when they came in and didn’t look at anything up [on the main floor],” Cuzzo said. Feeling nervous, she began washing storefront windows to guard the entrance, she said.
Taboo Tabou moved into its new storefront, 843 W. Belmont Ave., last week. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Downstairs, one girl in the group pulled the second employee aside to ask some questions. At that point, the others are captured on surveillance video footage pulling items from tables and displays into bags.
“They’re actually shopping for what they like. They didn’t grab the stuff and run — they’re grabbing more stuff,” said store co-owner Mark Thomas. “They don’t have any fear.”
The group walks in at 7:19 p.m. and leaves at 7:26 p.m., according to the video’s time stamp. As they neared the exit, Cuzzo and the other employee asked them to set the unpurchased merchandise back on the counter.
They pushed past her and ran out, she said.
“This felt more personal, because we’re just a little shop,” Cuzzo said. “Can you just not target two girls working alone at a store?”
The employees called police and the owners, and Alexis Thomas arrived quickly. When the three women saw the group walking down Belmont Avenue, they ran after the alleged thieves.
“We corner them in front of Belmont Army and say, ‘You’ve got all our stuff, drop it right now,'” Alexis Thomas said. “And suddenly 15 of them came from every inch of Belmont and swarmed us.”
The group ran for the Belmont “L” station and Thomas followed, joined by her father, husband and one of the employees. CTA security and police officers stopped the suspected thieves and took three into custody.
One of the men loomed over her and her co-worker, while others stood around smoking cigarettes while police processed the arrests, she said.
One person from the group even asked an officer, “Can I get my friend’s stuff?” and pointed to the stolen merchandise police recovered, she said.
“They didn’t care the police were there. It was like they had it all figured out,” she said.
Alexis Thomas poses with a mannequin in the newly opened Taboo Tabou, 843 W. Belmont Ave., which moved out of The Alley when it closed for good last week. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
On Monday, Alexis Thomas said she was impressed with her employees and proud of them for standing up to the “intimidating” group. The owners said they’ll be implementing new safety measures like the bag checks that have long been a routine practice for their other stores.
New employees who might not be familiar with signs of retail theft will also get additional training, Mark Thomas added.
Keeping employees distracted and getting empty store bags are two “professional” tactics, said Mark Thomas, who owned The Alley for 40 years before it closed last month.
“This is a perfect example [of retail theft]. This is how it’s done,” he said.
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