By Ray Sanchez and Josh Campbell | CNN
While in-store shoppers are expected to return in droves for the holiday shopping season, law enforcement is working to stop a wave of “smash-and-grab” organized crime among retailers across the streets. United States.
In Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities, police departments are stepping up patrolling retailers targeted by mobs of thieves in brazen raids. In northern California, district attorneys have formed an alliance to prosecute organized thief networks. At the federal level, the FBI said it was in “close contact” with local law enforcement investigating such cases and ready to take further action.
“We have seen this wave of people pouring into stores in droves,” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott. “There’s no way in my mind that we can have a situation where 20, up to 80 people can take a store or a series of stores and there’s no communication and no organization.”
The weekend before Thanksgiving Day, thieves stormed the Southland Mall in Hayward, San Francisco Bay Area, smashing windows with hammers in a store before grabbing jewelry and running away. .
Three suspects were arrested on November 20 after a mob ransacked a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco. Some 80 suspects were involved and they fled the open-air mall in at least 10 vehicles, police said. The theft follows similar raids this weekend near Union Square in San Francisco, where thieves have targeted Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale stores, a Walgreens and cannabis dispensaries.
“Instill fear in traders, customers and the community at large”
Seven Bay Area district attorneys – in San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties – last week announced an alliance that also included law enforcement and state agencies to tackle organized theft in retail.
Each office has agreed to appoint a prosecutor to target thieves, including fencing circles and people who buy stolen goods, according to a joint statement.
“These are clearly carefully orchestrated crimes, working together in large groups to create a mob mentality,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in the statement. “They instill fear in traders, customers and the community at large. It’s especially appalling at a time when many are out during the holiday season. “
Increased presence of law enforcement in retail outlets
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California Highway Patrol “saturation patrols” near major state retail locations during the holiday season in response to the thefts.
Four men were arrested over the weekend in connection with a robbery at a Home Depot in California, where up to 10 people entered the Lakewood store on Friday night and left with a range of commonly used tools in flights with crushing – hammers, sledgehammers, crowbars.
The four men, aged 19 to 22, were arrested by detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office and convicted of conspiring to commit a burglary, officials said.
In Santa Monica, police said, the “keen observation skills and quick-wittedness” of a downtown security guard may have foiled a break-in at a Nordstrom store last Friday.
Santa Monica Police Chief Ramon Batista said in a Facebook post Monday that the security officer radioed for police assistance after spotting seven vehicles carrying around 28 people parked in a lane of firefighters outside the store. The people in the vehicles left before the police arrived.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat, blamed the city’s reduction in the number of police officers on Monday on the spate of crush robberies and increased gun violence.
“Be clear, Oakland needs more cops,” she told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
Schaaf said the pandemic had halted the recruitment and training of new officers in the city. She called for greater coordination of law enforcement at all levels to combat theft from retail businesses.
“We need state and federal resources to halt these efforts,” she said. “God knows that (the thieves) are coordinated. We also need to be coordinated. “
Organized thefts have been reported across the country, including a case involving at least 30 people who stole electronics from a Best Buy store on Black Friday in Burnsville, Minnesota.
In Illinois, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday his service was “particularly focused” on theft. He said two teenagers were arrested for stealing $ 8,500 worth of items from a beauty store.
Chicago Police Chief of Operations Brian McDermott said the department had increased patrols in the CBD and other locations and tracked down “stolen cars and vehicles typically used in such crimes. “.
FBI “ready to play more active role”
An FBI spokesperson told CNN on Monday that federal agents were monitoring the wave of brazen thefts and staying in close contact with local police.
“If information that constitutes a federal crime is brought to our attention, we are prepared to play a more active role,” the spokesperson said.
Stephanie Martz, executive director and general counsel for the National Retail Federation, said stealing thefts had steadily increased over the past year and a half, starting with drugstores and spreading to department stores and top retailers. range.
About 69% of retailers have reported an increase in organized retail crime over the past year, citing factors ranging from the pandemic to changes in sentencing guidelines, according to a safety survey of the retail trade carried out in 2021 by the National Retail Federation. Many retailers who took part in the self-reported online investigation also said the suspects had become more aggressive and violent.
The recent incidents of group shoplifting come during what experts say is a decades-long decline in overall property crime.
The FBI Uniform Crime Report showed the nation’s property crime rate to be at an all-time low in 2020. According to the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, this downward trend is occurring. is continued in 2021.
In its most recent report, the NCCCJ – which investigates crime in 34 major cities – reported a 7% drop in non-residential burglaries between the first quarter of 2020 and 2021. However, San Francisco, where many thefts in the flight took place. occurred, reported a large increase in burglaries in 2020 compared to 2019. This is an outlier in California, where the burglary rate has steadily declined over time.
Shoplifting data, however, can be wrong. For example, a report from the San Francisco Chronicle showed that the city’s 2021 monthly shoplifting reports saw a dramatic increase in September due to a Target store that had recently switched to a new system. reporting.
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.