Holiday shoppers are changing their purchasing plans this season and growing more apprehensive about shopping at night, especially in California amid a recent surge of organized crime involving large groups of thieves ransacking luxury stores.
A number of businesses throughout San Francisco and Los Angeles have boarded up their windows and police have bolstered patrols around shopping centers after a string of ‘smash-and-grabs’ last weekend.
One shopper from Pleasanton, a suburb in the Bay Area, said that her friends were frozen with fear around 530pm Sunday inside Sam’s Jewelers at the Southland Mall in Hayward, as a group of about 40 to 50 thieves wielding hammers smashed display cases and made off with handfuls of merchandise.
Dramatic footage shot from a nearby store showed shop workers screaming as the scene unfolded.
‘It’s been alarming, so that’s why we are here during the daytime,’ the unnamed shopper’s mother told KPIX, a local affiliate of CBS, on Tuesday.
Holiday shoppers across San Francisco and Los Angeles are changing their purchasing plans this season amid a recent surge in shoplifting incidents. Above, one business boarded up its windows to prevent shoplifters from smashing them in and pilfering the store
Consumers are avoiding stores at night or opting for online shopping following a weekend of multiple break-ins involving dozens of armed thieves at a time. Above, police have amplified patrols outside a San Francisco shopping center
She added that the recent crime spree has ‘most definitely’ caused her to adjust her shopping habits. ‘I just got back from college and I was just made aware of everything that has been going on. It’s kind of upsetting,’ another member of the family added.
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom said the California Highway Patrol would be stepping up its presence around department stores and malls amid the rise in shoplifting.
‘You will see substantially more, starting today, in and around areas that are highly trafficked coming into the holiday season, Black Friday, shopping malls, so the state is supplementing those efforts and we are going to be more aggressive still,’ he told reporters at a San Francisco news conference on Monday.
Sam’s Jewelers was one of several stores hit this last weekend.
Video posted to Twitter shows a swarm of robbers stealing prescriptions from Wellspring Pharmacy in Oakland at around 7.30pm Saturday.
The Bay Area was subject to five shoplifting incidents over the weekend, though Los Angeles and other California cities have also seen an influx in thefts in recent days
Sam’s Jewelers, at the Southland Mall in Hayward, was hit by a group of about 40 to 50 robbers wielding hammers who smashed display cases before making off with handfuls of merchandise on Sunday around 5.30pm
One brazen shoplifter was seen even going back to grab some of the stolen property he dropped as he ran out
Pharmacy employees sped up the footage to show dozens of people running through the store grabbing boxes of drugs off the shelves before quickly moving out. It is unclear which drugs were stolen.
Store employees told KGO-TV reporter Dion Lim they were ‘overwhelmed and devastated’ by the brazen theft, especially since it is a small drug store and does not have the same resources as chains like CVS or Walgreens.
San Francisco has been particularly hit hard by brazen shoplifting incidents throughout the past several months, though its looting problem has spread to Los Angeles with at least 20 people raiding a Nordstrom store Monday night and a smaller group targeting a CVS.
The large group, wearing ski masks and carrying crowbars, rushed the Walnut Creek store, stole an undetermined amount of merchandise and fled in their vehicles.
During the theft, two Nordstrom workers were punched and kicked, while another was sprayed with pepper spray. All three individuals were treated for their injuries on scene.
Walnut Creek police have arrested three people in connection to the incident and they are facing various charges including robbery, conspiracy, burglary, possession of stolen property and a weapons charge.
Video posted to Twitter shows a swarm of robbers entering Wellspring Pharmacy in Oakland on Saturday and grabbing boxes of prescription drugs off the shelves
Store employees told KGO-TV reporter Dion Lim they were ‘overwhelmed and devastated’ by the brazen theft, as it is a small drug store and does not have the same resources as chains like CVS or Walgreens
And just about an hour before the Nordstrom was hit, CBS Los Angeles reports, a CVS in the city was robbed by six people who stole about $8,500 in cash. Detectives are now working to determine whether any of the suspects in that incident was involved in the Nordstrom smash and grab, too.
On Saturday, a Louis Vuitton store and the Saks Fifth Avenue on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills also were targeted for a smash and grab, but police said the would-be thieves appeared to try to use a sledgehammer on the store windows, which are reinforced glass panes.
They could not get in and remain at large, with Beverly Hills city officials vowing to hire two private security companies to boost patrols at the stores.
‘This used to be the safest city in the West, but it’s not anymore,’ one shopper Salvano Fino, told CBS Los Angeles. ‘Anybody can come and just take, and it’s just getting very easy for them.
Thieves also targeted a number of stores and shopping malls throughout Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Hayward and San Jose. In addition to the robbery at Sam’s Jewelers on Sunday, a Lululemon upmarket yoga clothing brand in San Jose was also ransacked by a group of thieves.
‘People need to be alert,’ San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo told Mercury News. ‘We’re coming into the busy holiday shopping season. We can’t be everywhere at the same time. We do need citizens’ help; when they see suspicious activity occurring, please let us know, especially at the malls.’
The shoplifting epidemic seemed to spread to Los Angeles on Monday night, when at least 20 people raided a Nordstrom store and others targeted a CVS
Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom said the California Highway Patrol would be stepping up its presence around department stores and malls amid the rise in shoplifting incidents
‘I was surprised, because I never thought it would happen in Walnut Creek. I don’t think it will happen here in Pleasanton Or Dublin,’ one shopper told KPIX.
Another said she would be skipping Black Friday shopping all together this year, telling the news station, ‘No Black Friday shopping. Stay safe!’
A group of would-be thieves had plans to break into stores at the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton thwarted when, just after 1 a.m. Monday, they broke into the mall and found every store behind locked gates, preventing their entry.
Pleasanton police said nothing was stolen and no arrests have been made, but officers are studying surveillance video to identify suspects.
‘Smash-and-grab’ crimes tend to increase around the holidays as stores are stocking up on fresh merchandise and shoplifters have more inventory to swipe, Lynda Buel, president of Ohio-based security consulting firm SRMC, told CNN.
‘It is incredibly easy to sell stolen merchandise online through e-commerce platforms,’ she added. ‘E-commerce has really taken off as the place to sell stolen goods.’
Meanwhile, businesses are taking extra measures beyond adding security to prevent the constant spike in shoplifting, such as putting more items behind lock and key. A B8ta technology store in San Francisco has been spending $30,000 a month on trained security guards with bulletproof vests after it was robbed at gunpoint last February.
The store closed for seven months after a thief aimed at gun at an employee before making off with two expensive laptops. B8ta prides itself on offering customers an in-person experience for exploring electronics, CEO Vibhu Norby told the San Francisco Chronicle.
After reopening in September, the venture capital-backed company brought on its team of around-the-clock security guards, which cost more than the store’s entire retail payroll of around five staff and also higher than the store’s rent.
Since then, foot traffic has been down 40% and sales are down 20 to 30% compared to before the pandemic. “We’re an unprofitable venture-backed company and we have been since day one. It’s something that most businesses can’t afford, but we can,’ Norby said, adding, “I think this holiday season will tell us a lot.’
Best Buy is another store hit hard by shoplifting. It cited organized theft as one of the reasons for a decline in gross profit margin in the third quarter.
CEO Corie Barry told Wall Street analysists on a Tuesday conference call, as reported by ABC News, “We are definitely seeing more and more particularly organized retail crime and incidents of shrink in our locations. This is a real issue that hurts and scares real people.”
Barry said the company also hired additional security at some locations, particularly in San Francisco, and was exploring ways to could “lock up product that still make that a good customer experience.’
San Francisco’s notoriously woke District Attorney Chesa Boudin said his office has filed criminal charges against nine people involved in Friday’s brazen organized theft of a Louis Vuitton store – with more arrests to come.
The progressive top prosecutor has come under enormous pressure in recent days following a spate of viral videos which show organized groups of thieves ransacking and looting designer stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Boudin told reporters during a news conference in San Francisco Tuesday that the suspects will be charged with crimes including looting, grand theft, burglary, possession of stolen property, firearm possession, commercial burglary.
Two of those arrested were found to be in possession of firearms, according to the district attorney.
Boudin said his office will ask the court to keep the suspects remanded to jail.
‘Ultimately in every single case including this, it is the decision of the judges and the Superior Court of San Francisco whether somebody stays in custody pending trial or whether they are released,’ Boudin told KPIX-TV, adding, ‘similarly, it is the decision of the judges of the Superior Court of San Francisco to decide what sentence should be imposed including whether charges in many instances filed as felonies as this year or subsequently reduced.
Police responded to the Louis Vuitton store shortly after 8pm Friday. Witnesses recorded video of more than 30 masked thieves running through the streets with their hands full of clothing items and bags.
Law enforcement officers are seen chasing a thief to a parked getaway car then bashing in the windows with batons, dragging the culprit out of the car and restraining them on the sidewalk.
Footage also showed the decimated storefront with shattered glass all over the sidewalk and totally empty shelves.
Police confirmed that the Louis Vuitton store may have not been the only one targeted. They were able to recover thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, the police chief said.
San Francisco police have said they are continuing to pursue those responsible for the brazen shoplifting, ABC 7 reports, and Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association on Tuesday lambasted the district attorney’s remarks.
Walgreens has had to close 17 of its 70 San Francisco stores due to constant shoplifting with thieves stealing items in front of security guards and sell them outside the drugstore chain’s doors
He accused Boudin of ‘trying to play district attorney’ while ‘residents keep getting abused, small businesses keep getting hammered and our city has become an unsafe national joke,’ the S an Francisco Chronicle reports.
Boudin also used his platform on Monday to discredit reports that he is persecuting thieves at lower rates than his predecessor, saying: ‘It’s only true if you cherry pick statistics from 2020 during the pandemic.’
But city data shows Boudin has only been charging people of theft in 46 percent of all cases since taking office. In comparison, his predecessor George Gascon made such charges in 62 percent of all cases in 2018 and 2019.
Overall, Boudin has charged people with crimes in 48 percent of all reported cases, while Gascon has a charging rate of 54 percent.
As of October 31, San Francisco police have received reports of 810 burglaries or attempted burglaries this year in the jurisdiction of the Mission District Police station, marking a 13 percent increase from the same time last year.
Businesses throughout the city have reduced their hours or closed entirely because of the uptick in property theft, with Walgreens closing 17 of its 70 San Francisco stores due to the constant shoplifting by thieves who waltz past security guards and sell the items outside the drugstore chain’s doors.
And just recently, a Safeway grocery store said it was scaling back its round-the-clock service to just 6am to 9pm, citing rampant shoplifting as the reason. San Francisco Mayor London Breed has also been condemned over her handling of soaring crime in the city.
‘The mayor and her entire team should resign,’ John Chachas, whose family owns Gump’s on Post Street in Union Square told the San Francisco Chronicle as his store reeled from the aftermath of the nearby shoplifting on Friday night.
‘You can’t really run a retail enterprise if you have to board up the windows five weeks before the critical Christmas selling season,’ he said, noting that he is thinking of relocating his store.
‘The fact that the city can’t maintain sufficient order that businesses can operate [in] without fear of being damaged,’ Chachas said leaves him to believe that city officials have ‘no understanding of how an orderly city is necessary for commerce to function.
‘We can’t operate a business,’ he said. ‘So we will evaluate our options to be elsewhere unless this nonsense ends.
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