Police see increase in theft of teeth-whitening strips

Teeth-whitening strips are the newest target of criminals.

A new kind of crime is sweeping central Indiana and, in some cases, the thieves are making a clean getaway.

Teeth-whitening strips promise a bright smile at a fraction of the cost of professional whitening. But now, the products are being stripped from store shelves.

"We don't have any intelligence they are using it for drug manufacturing at this time," said Zionsville Police Capt. Doug Gauthier.

In Brownsburg, Greenwood, Indianapolis, and Zionsville in the past eight months, there have been reports of people stealing teeth whiteners from area stores worth thousands of dollars.

Zionsville was the most recent case of theft, where police asked for the public's help identifying a woman in security video from a local grocery store last month. She was caught last week, but is not offering answers, so police can only venture a guess.

"People want to make a quick buck and are selling it on the street," said Gauthier.

From the Butler University campus, that's a pretty educated guess.

"They're peroxide-based products, so people are not going to get a high from them. And if they eat them, their belly is going to hurt, so it's not that they're getting some type of high. I do think it's a resale," said Amy Peak in the university's College of Pharmacy.

Unlike cold medicine, which was stolen to manufacture methamphetamine, there is no ingredient in a teeth-whitening strip that can be considered dangerous. Those in the dental field - and police - believe the motive is to make money by reselling the popular strips.

Cosmetic dentist Dr. Brad Sammons says teeth whitening is a top seller.

"Cosmetic dentistry, like surgery, is on the rise. A lot of people are interested in it, not everybody wants to pay full price," Sammons said.

A box of Crest White Strips costs about $55, but it is believed the thieves sell it at a fraction of that price. While it seems like a harmless crime, consumers do pay in cost and convenience.

Stores are taking preventive measures, keeping supplies limited. What is available - often under lock and key - and thousands of dollars in thefts can mean the cost increasing for the average consumer.

"They're also stealing electric toothbrushes, too," Sammons said.

A crime of convenience, but for police, not always a high priority.

"It's always a concern," Gauthier said.

A spokesperson for CVS tells Eyewitness News that teeth-whitening strips are among the top shoplifting targets in the retail industry, commonly stolen by organized retail crime rings for resale.