'Step back and take control of your store': Distraction used in Eugene jewelry theft

Footage of an attempted theft on March 19, 2018, in Escondido, Calif. Police suspect the same group is responsible for a series of thefts. (Jewelers' Security Alliance)

EUGENE, Ore . -- A Eugene jewelry store is the latest target in what seems to be a traveling crime ring.

Police say eight women entered a jewelry store off Coburg Road Monday afternoon, created a distraction and some chaos, then took off with $20,000 to $50,000 worth of jewelry.

There's no video from the incident in Eugene, but here's video of what police say were very similar robberies in California.

Detective Rick Lowe says it's identical to what happened here: The women walked in wearing shawls, scarves, and baggy dresses; one woman even had a baby.

They spoke an unidentifiable European language, bought a pair of earrings and overwhelmed the store employee.

In all the commotion, one or two of them went to the back of the store and stole a tray of jewelry out of the open safe.

The women were "asking how much prices were on certain jewelry, asking to look at jewelry, demanding to look at jewelry on the other side of the room," Lowe said, "so basically, distracting the store employee and keeping his attention on them asking questions."

Police are working with an expert investigator in New York on this.

Lowe thinks it might be the group of Romanian travelers who have done the same thing in California and states across the country.

And police say if it is, they're most likely already out of Eugene and possibly on to other stores in Oregon or Washington.

"A private business has the right to refuse service to anyone. If you feel like you're being overwhelmed or overstimulated, you have the right to step back and take control of your situation, your store," Lowe said.

Police aren't naming the jewelry store because some customer jewelry may have been stolen.

The store needs time to check their inventory and let those customers know.

Police say if you do see the group of women or have any surveillance video of them, give them a call.

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