The crime of ‘smash and take’: why some US cities are witnessing an attack

Three suspects were arrested on Saturday night after a mob ransacked a Nordstrom department store in Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco. About 80 suspects are involved and they fled the open-air mall using at least 10 different vehicles, police said. That robbery followed similar raids Friday night near San Francisco’s Union Square, where thieves targeted the stores of Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s, a retail cannabis store. and Walgreens.
And California isn’t the only place grappling with “smash and take” crime. Fourteen robbers burst in a Louis Vuitton store on the outskirts of Chicago last week and absconded with more than $100,000 in bags and other goods.

So why so many incidents lately? Are they holiday related? That restless pandemic?

“This has nothing to do with the pandemic,” said Pete Eliadis, a former law enforcement official and founder of the security firm. Intelligence Consulting Partner. “Pandemic is overused at this point.”

But security experts have cited a combination of several other factors.

Such cases do not always give priority to law enforcement

San Francisco has seen a surge in crime since it reopened during the pandemic. In the Central District, for example, burglaries and petty thefts were up nearly 88% from a year earlier, and crime overall was up nearly 52%, According to police statistics.

Many store thieves wear masks or hoods, making them difficult to identify even if they are detected on security cameras.

Police in Los Angeles and San Francisco Eliadis said.
Police investigate a robbery at a Luis Vuitton store near San Francisco's Union Square.

One reason for this is a lack of resources for law enforcement, which means theft cases sometimes come under the spotlight, he said. And, he added, the “undermining the police” movement has dampened the morale of some officers.

“There’s no political will to prosecute people in this atmosphere. Why should a police officer waste time in a melee when he or she doesn’t have to go to jail because it’s too crowded and the prosecution the officer won’t prosecute that case because it’s not high on the priority list?” Eliadis said.

“The bottom line is we need political will, more prosecution, and the support of law enforcement.”

Thieves may face a number of consequences

For example, Proposition 47, a California ballot initiative passed in 2014, sought to ease prison overcrowding by reducing penalties for some criminals. This measure raised the threshold for theft from $500 to $950.

“For low-level crimes, the benefits far outweigh the risks, as the threshold for a misdemeanor is $950 – meaning a person can steal up to that amount and be charged with only a misdemeanor,” Buel said.

Organized crime rings are often behind these types of “smashing” activities and pay low-level criminals to steal for them,” she said.

Security experts say dismantling these sophisticated criminal groups should be a law enforcement priority.

“People see the possibility of these ‘break-ins’ knowing that there will be very few consequences, especially if the thefts are kept below the threshold of a felony,” says Buel. , it’s quick and the payback is good.”

Holidays create more opportunities for theft

It’s not uncommon for “smash and grab” to increase around the Christmas holiday season, Buel said.

Stores stock up ahead of the holiday, which means there’s plenty of merchandise to choose from. That means more opportunities and more convenience for those who like to hunt, she said.

But retail theft by organized gangs isn’t just limited to the holiday season. In July, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed The law reinstates a task force to investigate organized theft in stores.
A gang of about 80 suspects stole items from this Nordstrom at an outdoor mall in Walnut Creek, California.
“This is nothing new in the state… We’ve been very purposefully organized to tackle organized retail crime for a number of years,” Newsom said. “We’re doubling down on efforts today.”
In Illinois, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in September that the crime ring is costing retailers nationwide an estimated $45 billion annually. He created a task force to crack down on organized crime rings targeting shops.

“These brazen, violent crimes are carried out by sophisticated criminal organizations that are involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and other serious crimes,” said Raoul.

There are many places to sell stolen goods

Once items are stolen, experts say, there are a number of ways to sell them – all extremely easy and with little regulation and oversight from law enforcement. Most items taken in such cases don’t have serial numbers, says Eliadis, making them nearly impossible to track down.

Best Buy CEO: Increased theft is hurting stores & # 39;  Staff

“It’s incredibly easy to sell stolen goods online through e-commerce platforms,” ​​Buel said. “E-commerce has really taken off as a place to sell stolen goods.”

Other thieves don’t need to sell their stolen goods on Craigslist or eBay. They can also use flea markets, pawn shops and street vendors. Thieves can sell expensive items at exorbitant prices, meaning there’s no shortage of buyers, Eliadis added.

The result is a ruthless cycle that affects everyone, says Eliadis. Some affected stores will close or relocate. And retailers hit by thefts see an increase in their insurance rates and private security costs – costs that will eventually pass on to customers.


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