The California governor announced a larger police presence in “busy” shopping malls after a series of mass thefts in high-end stores across the San Francisco Bay Area.
The governor’s announcement came after groups of people, some of whom wore crowbars and hammers, smashed glass cases and shop windows in luxury stores in several Bay Area cities, stole jewelry, sunglasses, suitcases and other goods before putting them in cars fled.
The thefts take place amid heated discussions in major American cities about the future of the police force. In California, they revived an already intense political debate over the crime rate, which sparked an immediate response from local and state leaders.
The weekend robberies began around 8 p.m. on Friday in San Francisco when groups broke into downtown stores like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Bloomingdale’s and Union Square, a tourist-favorite upscale shopping district teeming with Christmas shoppers.
Videos of the chaotic scene posted by witnesses on social media showed police officers dragging a suspect out of a waiting car and running people with goods in their arms or suitcases.
In nearby Walnut Creek, some 80 people, some with ski masks and swinging crowbars, aimed at a Nordstrom in an outdoor mall on Saturday, where police and witnesses said they attacked staff and stole goods before fleeing in waiting cars. Walnut Creek police called the robberies “clearly a planned event.”
Similar scenes were repeated on Sunday in jewelry, sunglasses and clothing stores in the towns of Hayward and San Jose, police said.
Retailers lose about $ 65 billion each year to organized theft, with the bulk being stolen by professional thieves, said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, and criminal flash mobs are part of a growing national trend.
But in San Francisco they follow months of divisions over property and retail crime. Reports of brazen retail thefts over the past few months, including reports of break-ins into tourist hotspots and viral videos of people running out of high-end stores with arms full of guns Fan-Shop, have fueled calls from local community groups, conservative lawmakers and the police union for a more aggressive response from law enforcement agencies. A campaign to commemorate Chesa Boudin, the city’s progressive prosecutor elected on a criminal justice reform platform, recently received enough signatures to appear on the voting slip in 2022.
Racial justice activists, meanwhile, have voiced concern over growing calls for more police and a “tough on crime” action, arguing that increased law enforcement presence can lead to further criminalization of color communities while doing little to prevent crime.
San Francisco has long had higher levels of property crime than other California cities. Recent data suggests that while some categories of crime have increased, others have decreased.
Property crime appears to have decreased in the city from 2019 to 2020, so data vom San Francisco Police Department Crime Dashboard. Crimes like rape and robbery also fell in 2020, according to a San Francisco Chronicle To analyse the most recent FBI data given. Murders, car thefts, and break-ins increased according to the same FBI data. While data for 2021 is still incomplete, the decline in shoplifting appears to have continued into 2021 data from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
In late September 2021, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, along with the San Francisco Police Chief, unveiled the organized retail theft investigation and deterrent strategy, an initiative that will expand the city’s efforts to combat retail crime.
Following the thefts this weekend, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said car access to the streets in Union Square will soon be restricted and the area will be flooded with police officers.
Throughout California, Republicans pointed to the thefts to argue that Governor Gavin Newsom and other Democrats have made the state “a more dangerous place to live, work, and raise families.”
Property crime in California declined in 2019, and data suggests it continued to do so in 2020 Public Policy Institute of California. Commercial break-ins increased by around 20%.
Newsom said Monday that its office met with retailers over the weekend asking for more police patrols. He said the California Highway Patrol stepped up patrols along nearby highway corridors following the thefts and asked local officials how they could help.
The governor signed a law in July allowing prosecutors to prosecute those who work with others to steal goods. He said this year’s state budget included millions of dollars for local officials to fight retail theft, and his January budget will include “an exponential increase in support to cities and counties.”