Police arrested three people Sunday night believed to have shoplifted more than $50,000 in merchandise from several Salt Lake-area department stores.

The three - two women and one man - were arrested in their vehicle by off-duty Sandy police officer Dean Carriger, who was working as a security guard for Dillard's at South Towne Mall, Sandy Police Sgt. Kevin Thacker said.A store clerk had approached one of the suspects, about 6:30 p.m. Sunday while the suspect, a man, was looking at some expensive handbags. When an offer for assistance was rebuffed and the suspect left the store hurriedly, the clerk became suspicious and told Carriger.

Carriger attempted to locate the man in the mall parking lot but couldn't. While returning to the store, the officer noticed a woman leaving Dillard's with a large bag of merchandise. Carriger followed her to a van, where the other suspects were waiting, Thacker said. After initiating a traffic stop, Carriger arrested all three.

The suspect's van was filled with clothing and handbags from Dillard's stores across the Salt Lake Valley. The property is valued at better than $51,000, Thacker said.

All three suspects were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of theft, possession of burglary tools and possession of stolen property.