In Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities, police departments are increasing patrols at retail stores targeted by mobs of thieves during blatant raids. In Northern California, district attorneys have formed a coalition to prosecute organized thefts. At the federal level, the FBI said it is “in close contact” with local law enforcement to investigate such cases and prepare further action.
Police Chief William Scott said: “We have seen this wave infiltrate stores in large numbers. “I don’t think we can have a situation where 20, up to 80 people can break into a store or a bunch of stores and not have some sort of contact and organization.”
The weekend before Thanksgiving, thieves stormed the Southland Mall in Hayward, in the San Francisco Bay Area, smashing a display cabinet at one store with a hammer before taking the jewelry and leaving it. hide.
‘Arouse fear in merchants, customers and the wider community’
Seven Bay Area district attorneys — in San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — announced a coalition of state and law enforcement agencies to fight back. organized retail theft.
Each office unanimously appointed a prosecutor to target thieves, including barricades and people buying stolen goods, according to a joint statement.
“These are clearly carefully staged crimes that work together in large groups to create a mob-like mentality,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in the statement. “They are instilling fear in merchants, customers and the wider community. This is especially horrifying at a time when many people are out during the holiday season.”
Increasing law enforcement presence in retail locations
Four men, aged between 19 and 22, were arrested by Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office detectives and charged with conspiracy to commit a burglary, officials said.
In Santa Monica, police said, a downtown security guard’s “skillful observation and quick thinking” may have prevented a burglary at a Nordstrom store on Thursday. Six weeks ago.
Santa Monica Police Chief Ramon Batista said in a Facebook post on Monday that security guards radioed for police assistance after spotting seven cars carrying about 28 people parked in a fire lane outside. outside the store. The people in the car left before the police arrived.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat, on Monday blamed cuts in the city’s police force for a wave of thefts and robberies as well as increased gun violence.
“Let me be clear, Oakland needs more police,” she told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
Schaaf said the pandemic has disrupted the city’s recruitment and training of new officers. She called for closer coordination by law enforcement at all levels to combat retail theft.
“We need state and federal resources to disrupt those efforts,” she said. “God knows (the thieves) have coordination. We need coordination too.”
In Illinois, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday that his department is “particularly focused” on break-ins. He said two teenagers were arrested for the theft of $8,500 worth of items from a beauty supply store.
Chicago Police Chief Brian McDermott said the department has increased patrols in the downtown area and other locations and is tracking “stolen vehicles and vehicles commonly used in these types of crimes.”
FBI ‘prepared to take a more active role’
An FBI spokesman told CNN on Monday that federal agents are tracking the series of blatant thefts and are in close contact with local police.
“If we are attentive to information that constitutes a federal crime, we will be prepared to take a more active role,” the spokesperson said.
Stephanie Martz, administrative director and general counsel for the National Retail Federation, said thefts have steadily increased over the past year and a half, starting in pharmacies and spreading to department stores and other retail outlets. high end retailer.
The recent group thefts come during what experts say is a decades-long decline in overall property crime.
However, procurement data can be flawed. For example, a San Francisco Chronicle report showing the city’s 2021 monthly shopping spree saw a spike in September stemming from a Target store that recently switched to the reporting system. new.
CNN’s Priya Krishnakumar contributed to this report.