Portland, Ore.—Panera Bread is a popular go-to for lunch with all of the healthy options they offer, but they’ve started to also become a go-to for thieves looking for an easy way to snag wallets and bags from the patrons.
Pick-pocketing cases at Panera Bread locations nationwide have increased, according to investigators, and they’ve become targets for multi-state theft rings.
Panera Bread has been a target since 2012, and the number of reports has continued to increase since then. Beaverton Police detective Jason Buelt explained, “I don’t know why, but Panera has been hit throughout the United States since about 2012.”
“They’re hard to catch because they hit and then move on to the next area,” said Buelt. The crime sprees that target Panera Bread usually involve teams of two or three people who focus on stealing wallets and bags during the busy lunch hour.
They then take any credit cards they find to rack up large bills on gift cards because they’re more difficult to trace.
Patrons of Panera Bread should be aware that the thieves are known to wear disguises, and will go as far as renting cars and making use of short-term rentals to help avoid detection before they eventually flee the country.
Gayla Christopher, a crime analyst with Tigard Police Department said, “Many of the women have been seen wearing big floppy hats and wigs. Some of the men wear hats, sunglasses and very nice jackets concealing their bodies.”
“It’s morphed,” he continued. “Over time, these crews recognized that police have picked up on Panera.”
Investigators believe that Panera Bread might be an attractive target because of their specific customer base, the layout of the stores and where they’re located.
Aaron Snell of Everett Police Department explained, “They are located within shopping areas, so there’s quick access to use those credit cards to make purchases.”
Panera Bread is known for its open seating layout, where customers are able to choose where they sit. A thief can easily decide what victims to target, and will sit behind them for easy access to their belongings.
The crowded atmosphere also helps the thieves blend in, and Panera Bread has a relatively affluent customer base that skews toward Baby Boomers and women.