MADISON, Wis. -

Madison police said they arrested three women in sophisticated retail theft operation after the suspects set off anti-theft sensors at a Madison mall and fled.

Police searched for a white getaway van with Illinois plates Saturday after the van nearly struck an employee of the Buckle store after he followed three retail theft suspects into the West Towne Mall parking lot, according to a Madison Police Department incident report.

A customer saw a woman prying security devices off of clothing and alerted staff at the Buckle. Police said anti-theft sensors activated as the suspects hurried out of the store.

The employee who pursued the thieves said the two younger women -- identified as Brianna Lucas, 18, and Antonette C. Leonard, 22, both of Chicago -- fled on foot while the third suspect sped away in the van, Madison police said.

That suspect, identified as Cassandra R. Rumley, 29, of Rock Island, Ill., was apprehended near where the van was found in a parking lot off of Odana Road, according to the incident report.

Police said Rumley was arrested on suspicion of retail theft.

Police said Lucas and Leonard were tracked down and arrested inside an apartment on Britta Drive.

The lead investigating officer believed the suspects who had been traveling in the van were likely involved in a "professional-level retail theft operation," according to the incident report.

Not only was there a large quantity of merchandise, with tags still attached and for which there were no receipts, but there were more than 300 empty shopping bags in "unused condition," police said.

"I know from my training and experience that experienced retail thieves and career criminals collect bags from different stores to fill them with merchandise inside of those particular stores to give the appearance that the merchandise was already paid for," the officer wrote in one of his reports.

Police said there were shopping bags from Aeropostale, Toys R Us, Express the Children's Place, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Walgreens.

Both Lucas and Leonard were arrested on a charge of resisting/obstructing police officers, police said.