Over the course of several hours Friday night, at least 30 people robbed several of San Francisco’s more upscale stores, prosecutors said, in what law enforcement officials called one of the thefts. the most cheeky in recent memory.
The next day, hours after authorities vowed to prosecute the thieves and prevent another major burglary, dozens of people rushed into a Nordstrom store on the outskirts of Walnut Creek, Calif., 25 miles outside. ‘is. They seized clothes, jackets and handbags and fled in a waiting caravan of vehicles, police said.
For eight days this month, near Chicago, around the Bay Area and in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, a series of rapid and high-profile burglaries have alarmed businesses, passers-by and some state and local officials, who have pledged to crack down on crime.
“We have to make an example of these people,” Governor Gavin Newsom of California said at a press conference Monday. âThey don’t just steal people’s products and impact their livelihoods. They steal a sense of belonging and trust, and that’s why you need to take this seriously. “
It was not clear if any of the heists were related. Store surveillance footage and cellphone videos shared online, showing people grabbing and running with goods, said they varied widely. A theft in northern California appeared to involve three people, while the Walnut Creek burglary involved as many as 80, according to the police.
To the extent that there were patterns of break-ins, law enforcement officials said, each involved groups of at least three people, usually with getaway vehicles waiting nearby and apparently with little fear of death. ‘be seen by store cameras or passers-by.
Data on how frequently these types of crimes occur is not readily available from two major retail trade groups, and local law enforcement agencies have not shared their findings. publicly given.
A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department said that since the investigation was ongoing, he would not say what evidence, if any, authorities gathered to connect the break-ins on Friday night.
Stores affected in San Francisco on Friday included Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Bloomingdale’s, Yves Saint Laurent, Walgreens, Fendi, Hermes, Armani and several cannabis dispensaries.
âTheir plan was to overwhelm us,â San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at a press conference the next morning. “We will do what it takes to end this madness.” On Monday, he told ABC7-TV that the break-ins were “organized to some extent.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city will increase the police presence and restrict vehicle access to the Union Square shopping area. Chief Scott said at least six men and two women have been arrested in connection with several of the break-ins.
District attorney Chesa Boudin, who faces a recall election next year and whose critics accused him of being too lenient on crime, said on Wednesday he had filed charges of crime against those who have been arrested. “This is not theft,” he told a press conference. “It is a criminal act.”
Hours after San Francisco officials promised a firm response on Saturday, the heist took place at the Nordstrom in Walnut Creek. There, just before 9 p.m., about 80 people broke into the store, seized clothes, jackets and handbags, and escaped in more than two dozen cars waiting outside, said. the police.
Viewer video posted on Twitter shows people wearing hoodies and face masks running down the streets, carrying bags and armfuls of merchandise.
Three people were arrested, including one with a gun, Walnut Creek police said. Over the next two days in California, a jewelry store in Hayward, a Lululemon in San Jose, a Louis Vuitton in Beverly Hills and a Nordstrom in Los Angeles were also robbed by groups of at least three people, according to police and local news. reports.
On November 15, nine people with hammers smashed windows and took thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from a store in Concord, Calif., Police said.
On November 17, three people stole goods from a jewelry store at a shopping mall in Fairfield, Calif., About 27 miles north of Concord, police said at the scene. Police said they later arrested three people and recovered approximately $ 50,000 in stolen goods.
That same day in Oak Brook, Ill., Near Chicago, 14 people seized about $ 120,000 in merchandise and escaped in three vehicles waiting nearby, police said.
Several Nordstrom employees in Walnut Creek were treated for minor injuries, the company said in a statement.
Retail industry advocates and loss prevention experts have said that several factors may be behind recent break-ins, including the proliferation of online marketplaces where unverified sellers can sell quickly, or “Fencing”, stolen goods.
“If you close the fences, what are these people going to do with all the goods they steal?” Said Lisa LaBruno, an executive with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade association.
Richard Hollinger, a retired professor at the University of Florida at Gainesville who has researched retail theft, said accessibility of products in stores was another factor.
Retailers âwant to make the merchandise as exposed as possible,â he said, âbut now it’s easier to grabâ. While these types of crimes occur year round, they tend to gain more attention during the holiday shopping season, he said.
Estimates vary widely as to how much money retailers lose to âorganized retail crimeâ – an industry term with a broad definition that includes burglaries and theft by employees.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which advocates on behalf of retailers, said this month that retail organized crime cost businesses nearly $ 69 billion in 2019. The National Retail Federation said organized crime in Canada retail cost retailers over $ 700,000 for $ 1 billion in sales last year, up from $ 450,000 in 2015.
At a conference in Florida last week hosted by the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, a nonprofit that promotes collaboration between agencies and businesses, experts estimated the figure at around $ 30 billion, according to Jacques Brittain, editorial director of Loss Prevention Magazine.
While retail advocates have recognized that “retail organized crime” includes a variety of crimes, they have distinguished it from shoplifting.
Barbara C. Staib, spokesperson for the National Shoplifting Prevention Association, a nonprofit, said the distinction was in the number of people involved and their motivations.
Shoplifting is “an opportunistic crime”, usually committed by one person, she said. “This is not an organized group of people walking into a store and looting.”
Mr Brittain, of Loss Prevention Magazine, said people steal primarily for personal gain – stealing a shirt, for example, to wear it or sell it for quick cash. Those involved in organized crime in the retail business, he said, have “made a business of it.”