People Are Stealing Tide Detergent and Using It to Buy Drugs

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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Tide detergent bottle attempts to hide in the shadows so it doesn't get stolen.

So say the latest reports about a “crime wave” sweeping the nation. According to multiple news sources, theft of Tide Detergent is soaring across the country, forcing retailers like CVS to consider placing alarms on each bottle as cities establish special task forces to put a halt to the thefts.

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The popular detergent has apparently become a kind of currency on the black market. Tide, which sells for about $12 for a 100-oz. bottle and around $18 for 150 oz., reportedly goes for about half that on the streets. Some thieves have resold stolen bottles to stores, and the detergent has supposedly even been showing up in the homes of busted drug dealers.

One law enforcement official in Maryland told The Daily: “We sent in an informant to buy drugs. The dealer said, ‘I don’t have drugs, but I could sell you 15 bottles of Tide.’ … Upstairs in the drug dealer’s bedroom was about 14 bottles of Tide laundry soap. We think [users] are trading it for drugs.”

Another policeman in Oregon said that Tide thieves buy heroin and meth with it.  In one drug raid, more Tide than cocaine was found, and one man reportedly stole $25,000 of the detergent over a 15-month period before he was finally busted.

The detergent is described as “liquid gold” by the authorities who are pursuing the thieves, which has so far proved difficult. “There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” a Kentucky police officer told The Daily. “It’s the item to steal.”

And those thieves are brazen. Some simply walk into a supermarket, fill up their carts and then dart toward a getaway vehicle outside. In one incident, a security video showed a man who had made off with a cart full of Tide reselling the detergent hours later.

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So far, it appears that it’s just Tide that’s the focus of the thefts and not other brands like All or Wisk, apparently because of Tide’s popularity and recognizable color and logo.

The story of the Tide detergent thieves has been widely reported, but still appears to have been at least partly exaggerated. While anecdotal evidence abounds that this is truly occurring, there are little to no hard statistics backing up the claim of a crime wave.

On Tuesday, Fox News quoted a handful of police officers and retailers who disputed that the thefts are widespread. “We are not experiencing a ‘wave’ of Tide thefts,” a CVS/pharmacy public relations director said. He did confirm that the retailer does have security devices on Tide bottles in a few markets but said the thefts are nothing new.

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