Law enforcement officials across the US have been left baffled by a crime wave targeting an unlikely item -- Tide laundry detergent.
Theft of Tide detergent has become so rampant that some cities are setting up special task forces to stop it and retailers like CVS are taking special security precautions to lock down the liquid.
One Tide thief in West St. Paul, Minn., stole $25,000 of the product over 15 months before he was arrested last year.
"That was unique that he stole so much soap," said West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver.
"The name brand is [all] Tide. Amazing, huh?"
Tide has become a form of currency on the streets. The retail price is steadily high -- roughly $10 to $20 a bottle -- and it's a staple in households across socioeconomic classes.
Tide can go for $5 to $10 a bottle on the black market, authorities say, and some thieves even resell it to stores.
"There's no serial numbers and it's impossible to track," said Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft. "It's the item to steal."
Police say thieves target the Procter & Gamble detergent because it is the most popular and, with its Day-Glo orange logo, the most recognizable.
George Cohen, spokesman for Philadelphia-based Checkpoint Systems, which produces alarms being tested on Tide in CVS stores, said, "Name brands are easier to resell.
"In organized retail crimes they would love to steal the iPad. It's very easy to sell. Harder to sell the unknown Korean brand."
Most thieves load carts with dozens of bottles, then dash out the door. Many have getaway cars waiting outside.
"These are criminals coming into the store to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise," said Detective Harrison Sprague of the Prince George's County, Md., Police Department, where Tide is known as "liquid gold" among officers.
He and other law enforcement officials across the country say Tide theft is connected to the drug trade.
"We sent in an informant to buy drugs," Sprague said. "The dealer said, 'I don't have drugs, but I could sell you 15 bottles of Tide.'"
Police in Gresham, Ore., said most Tide theft is perpetrated by "users feeding their habit."
"They'll do it right in front of a cop car -- buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide," said Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham Police Department. "We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it."