Two women have been arrested and charged after thefts from various women's clothing retail stores at the Smart Centre on Pinebush Road in Cambridge, Ont.

Three females were seen at a number of stores in the plaza on Thursday, and with the assistance of local citizens, two women were arrested.

Waterloo Regional Police Staff Sgt. Dave Mathes says "It appears that some people were loading goods into a vehicle. We had previously made some alerts to the area about suspicious activity so it was excellent that somebody called in, noticed it."

Uthman Hasan is a new employee at the Esprit store in the plaza. He and his uncle caught the thieves in action on Thursday night.

Hasan says "I wouldn't even believe how many bags I saw coming out of the van….I put two and two together and remembered my manager telling me there was a group of three to four females with big large bags stealing from stores."

So Hasan called 911 and, Mathes says police got there quickly.

"We were able to apprehend two women going to a vehicle with stolen property. The property was recovered, both females were arrested."

The women, both of Asian descent, have been charged with theft and possession of stolen property under $5,000 in connection with the theft of numerous items of clothing.

A 46-year-old Hamilton woman and a 41-year-old Woodbridge woman are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 2, 2012.

A getaway car was also towed from the scene and police believe the thefts may be connected to an organized shoplifting crime ring.

Mathes says "We believe they were acting with others. Those other suspects haven't been apprehended at this time so there is an ongoing police investigation."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 519-650-8500 Ext. 2299 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

The plaza at Pinebush and Hespeler Road is a regular target, in large part due to its proximity to Highway 401, which allows for a quick getaway. The busy shopping season also makes it easier for shoplifters to go unnoticed.

Thefts also hitting small businesses

The seasonal thefts aren't just impacting larger shopping plazas and chain stores. At Brittles ‘N More in Waterloo, they're reeling after a different kind of theft.

On Thursday, a $2,000 piece of candy-making equipment was stolen from the shop.

The company can still produce lots of caramel and Turkish delight, but no sponge toffee, which accounts for 10 per cent of their business.

Mike MacEachern of Brittle ‘N More says "My equipment was right here and come out a couple hours later and its gone…We're really distraught over that. It's a major piece of equipment for us to make our sponge toffee and this is a busy time of year and we're stuck right now."

The candy makers are hoping someone will come forward with information.

Meanwhile police say people should be vigilant this holiday season, and contact them if they see anything suspicious.