Screen shot from surveillance video showing Sarah Bibb on left and Barbara Axer on right.

The episode began with a video. Last Tuesday, Sarah Bibb—owner of Slabtown boutique Folly—shared a snippet from her security video of a blonde woman browsing through a rack, and then, unmistakably, pulling a pair of pants from its hanger and quickly slipping them into her bag. It ended with the community rallying together, and the shoplifter's arrest.

Shoplifting hurts businesses—we all know that. But for a small shop, it's a devastating crime. Bibb likened the experience to someone walking into her home and stealing something. She said she had spent a few minutes chatting with Axer in the shop, and didn’t realize until the next morning when she saw the empty hangar that something had been stolen. 

Photo by Tomasz Karwowski

Instead of sitting idle, Bibb uploaded the surveillance video to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, with a clear shot of the alleged offender, and tagged fashion media, boutique owners, and favorite customers asking for help to solve the case.

The video was shared 42,000 times, with other shop owners chiming in to say that the suspect had stolen from them as well. Television news picked up the story, and on Friday, at the very moment Bibb was giving an interview to KOIN, the suspect walked into the store. Barbara Axer's friends had seen the social media pleas, and persuaded her to come return the pants to Bibb and apologize.

After her apology, Axer was arrested and Bibb felt vindicated in her viral sleuthing technique. “I am so grateful for everyone on Facebook and Twitter who shared my original post," she says. “With the help of everyone in Portland viewing and sharing, we solved the crime.” As for what happens now in the case of Folly Pants Stealing? Bibb says she’s pressing charges. “I felt an overwhelming amount of support from the community and I also felt protective of my fellow retailers, which is why we are going to see it through and press charges,” she says. “Just because we are little doesn't mean we can't stand up for ourselves!”

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