Police: Criminals Trade Laundry Detergent for Drugs

Tide has a street value of $3, according to a police official, but dealers can trade it for marijuana or crack cocaine.

Criminals in Prince George's County are stealing Tide laundry detergent from stores and trading it for marijuana and crack, according to Sgt. Aubrey Thompson, head of the Prince George's County Police crime unit that investigates retail crimes.

Thompson went live on KPCC's Take Two radio show in Southern California Wednesday and talked about why hardened criminals are turning to Tide.

They aren't using it to make the drugs. But its popularity as a laundry detergent gives it bartering power, he explained.

"Why Tide though?" asked Take Two Co-Host A Martinez, who wondered why another brand of liquid laundry detergent wouldn't do.

"The product has proven to be effective; it works. Everybody wants Tide," Thompson answered. "That's the product I use."

The detergent is popular among criminals because they want to commit crimes with a high reward and low risk, said Thompson.

Once on the street, they can exchange a $20 bottle of the detergent with a local street dealer for $3—or for a $5 bag of marijuana or a $5 rock of crack, Thompson said. They can also take it to a fencing operation such as a nail salon, barber shop or other local store, according to Thompson. Sometimes one person collects different stolen items and ships them overseas for sale, he said.

The bottles are heavy, weighing 150 ounces, Martinez said and asked how people made off with more than one bottle.

They walk into a store and fill their carts with 40 bottles or so then cover it up with a big roll of Bounty paper towels and walk out of the store calmly, Thompson answered.

Tide crime has slowed down in Prince George's County, but it is still a problem that takes money from the community, according to Thompson.  

"We get teased all the time," Thompson said when Martinez asked if officers ever laughed about chasing Tide as part of their job.

"It's no laughing matter because it affects the quality of life of the community because that's money that's being taken from the community and tax," Thompson said.

The illegal Tide transactions generate no tax, so the state of Maryland is not getting funds—and stores have to charge higher prices that the community pays for, Thompson explained. And the solution is not as simple as putting it behind the counter, he added.

"You can't lock up or put security devices on Tide," Thompson said.

It's something people have to use everyday, and if stores locked it up, customers would go elsewhere, according to Thompson. It would also be too costly for stores, he said. But the Organized Retail Crime Unit that he heads is working collectively with area retailers to stop the theft, according to Thompson.

FiFi Griffin January 10, 2013 at 02:10 PM
I wonder if Tide will start a commercial based on the fact that apparently the detergent can not only give you clean clothes, but score you a couple grams of crack. It always amazes me the things people will sale to obtain drugs.
Nunya January 10, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Clearly there is no real news in Bowie. Yes crackheads steal products to support their drug habit. Yes they steal items they know people will purchase they are crackheads you know. Please understand also there is a clear distinction between a crack head and a weed head and typically weed heads dont steal to get high. The reporter needs to do a little more research before publishing nonsense.
Gretchen Ward Waller January 11, 2013 at 01:25 AM
I've noticed that Tide prices in the store are way up; so this is why! Also, to the contrary, I have seen security devices put on the liquid Tide in various CVS stores!
sonia stewart January 11, 2013 at 06:59 PM
I have been approached on laundroumats on occasion to purchase by pass-through vendors. I wouldn't buy a jug of watery detergent anymore than I would buy a TV box full of rocks.
LeszX January 13, 2013 at 03:14 PM
The U.S. dollar should be pegged to Tide - at $20 per 160 oz. bottle. That would restore trust in the currency. Mr. Bernanke would think twice, then, before issuing another round of "quantitative easing".
MG42 January 13, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Shaka Zulu January 14, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Another success story of the Obama administration, no need to get a job, just steal and use the under ground money market.
FiFi Griffin January 14, 2013 at 07:54 PM
SZ, thanks for taking the time to 1) post with a nick offensive to some; and 2) add nothing to the argument but more anti-Obama sentiment. News flash: Drug addicts were stealing and selling items that weren't tied down even during the Bush administrations (daddy and son). Leave your ignorant comments for CNN.
Richard Hertz January 15, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Great idea!
Richard Hertz January 15, 2013 at 01:08 AM
No, prices are up because your gov't spends far more money than it takes in in revenues, and finances that extra spending by having the Federal Reserve print more money to purchase gov't bonds.


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