California law enforcement officials claim organized crime syndicates are the ones behind the spate of “smash-and grab” raids against luxury stores. They pay as little as $500 for thieves to take items worth thousands.

Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, said sophisticated criminal networks recruit mainly young people, offering them $500 to $1,000 to steal specific merchandise from stores and then sell it online. 

As the holiday season gets into full swing, the frequency and size of the “smash-and grab” operations is increasing. 

‘We´re not talking about someone who needs money or needs food. Dugan stated that these are people who do it for high profits and thrill.

A group of about 40 to 50 teenage shoplifters made off with an unknown amount of jewelry and other items in Hayward, California, on Sunday. Experts and officials say national crime networks are behind many of the 'smash-and-grab ' operations

About 40 to 50 teenager shoplifters took unspecified amounts of jewelry and other merchandise in Hayward (California) on Sunday. Many of the “smash-and grab” operations are believed to be part national crime networks according to officials and experts. 

A suspect was seen running away with an armful of merchandise after stealing from a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco's Union Square on Friday night

After robbery at a Louis Vuitton shop in San Francisco’s Union Square, Friday night, a suspect ran off with an armful merchandise.

Los Angeles Police say that at least twenty people broke the glass in Nordstrom’s store on Monday night with sledgehammers and then ransacked its shelves, before running away.

Police managed to track down one of the cars that fled on the 110 Freeway.

Police found bags of clothes with tags still on it when they searched the getaway car

Police searched the getaway car and found baggies of clothing with tags attached.

After three days of organised shoplifting in Los Angeles, Monday’s brazen looting in Los Angeles comes after Monday’s thefts

The Bay Area is known for its aggressive retail thefts. However, this week Los Angeles saw a number of “smash and grab” incidents. Twenty crooks raided a Nordstrom shop at The Grove mall and another group targeted a CVS pharmacy. They were able to escape with over $8,000 cash.

Another major US city has seen an uptick in store burglaries, Chicago included. More than twelve suspects entered a Louis Vuitton shop and stole over $120,000 worth high-end clothes and merchandise.  

California’s Proposition 47: Lighter Sentences for Thefts

California’s voters approved Proposition 47 on November 5, 2014.

The government made misdemeanors of some property crimes (where the theft value is less than $950)

This also makes some “simple” drug possession offenses misdemeanors. Courts can reduce previous convictions to make them misdemeanors. 

California law states that two or more persons can conspire to “cheat or defraud any individual or property,” but they are not allowed to spend more than one (1) year in prison. A $10,000 fine, or some combination of both, is also possible.

Other than organized crime groups, police officers seem reluctant to pursue retail criminals due to current political climate. Prosecutors fail to prioritize theft and larceny in some jurisdictions.

Two progressive criminal justice professionals suggested that news media and law enforcement officers stop using the word ‘looting to describe brazen store robberies. They claimed it is racist. 

Lorenzo Boyd, a professor of criminal justice & community policing at the University of New Haven, and Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute of Journalism Education, urged news outlets to refer to the crimes as ‘organized smash-and-grabs.’

Boyd and Martin made the remarks instantly, triggering a torrent of mockery online. Right-leaning critics were quick to denigrate the ‘woke experts.

Conservative activist and former convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza tweeted: ‘Experts refuse to call a spade a spade, unless, of course, it’s a spade wielded by a white male.’

Scott Walker (ex-Governor of Wisconsin) compared the situation to Wisconsin’s Jacob Blake shooting aftermath: “It’s looting.” It’s like the riots that took place in Kenosha. 

Corie Berry, CEO of Best Buy, stated this week that the company has increased security to ensure its employees and customers are safe. 

Barry told analysts that the traumatizing situation was unacceptable for their associates. We are trying to do our best to help create this. [an] as safe as possible environment.’

A day earlier, California Gov Gavin Newsom vowed to crack down on gangs of retail thieves, despite a controversial 2014 law – Proposition 47 – that barred prosecutors from charging suspected shoplifters accused of stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise with felonies. 

‘The benefit is far greater than the risk for the low-level criminal since the threshold to be charged with a misdemeanor crime is $950. This means that a person could steal as much as that amount without being charged with a misdemeanor.’ Lynda Buel of SRMC in Ohio, stated CNN. 

Buel stated that people see the potential to steal and also know there are few consequences, particularly if they don’t exceed the threshold for a felony crime. It is easy and quick, with good payback. 

The weekend saw several’smash and grab’ robberies in San Francisco Bay Area, with one incident that involved a group of hammer-wielding bandits who stole jewelry, sunglasses, and clothes from the Southland Mall, a suburb of San Jose.

Dramatic video footage of a group robbers smashing display glass cases at Sam’s Jewelers in the mall around 5.30pm Sunday was shown on Monday. As the crime unfolded, staffers can be seen screaming in terror. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom vowed on Monday to get tough with organized gangs of thieves who have ransacked and looted luxury retail stores in the San Francisco Bay Area

California Governor Gavin Newsom pledged Monday that he would get tough on organized thieves who ransacked luxury stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

At the same moment, on Sunday evening thieves ransacked two sunglasses stores in San Jose and one Lululemon shop in San Jose. The thieves stole almost $50,000 worth merchandise. San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said Monday.

There were two males and one female in the Lululemon group, with one carrying a concealed gun inside his waistband.

According to police, witnesses and police, 80 people were arrested on Saturday for allegedly targeting a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek. The suspects were wearing ski masks and carrying barrows.

Police called the incident a “clearly planned event” and said that two employees were attacked. One was also pepper sprayed. Walnut Creek police claimed they had arrested two people and found a firearm. 

The day before, thieves armed with hammers and barrows attacked a number of high-end stores, including Louis Vuitton and Burberry, along with a Walgreens pharmacy and several cannabis dispensaries. They were located near Union Square, San Francisco’s high-end tourist area that was packed with holiday shoppers.

San Francisco has seen a dramatic increase in crime rates across the board, particularly in larceny thefts

The crime rate in San Francisco has increased dramatically, especially in the area of larceny thefts.

Witnesses posted videos of the chaos on social media, showing police officers pulling one suspect out of a car. People were also running with suitcases or merchandise in their arms.

Dugan explained that the’smash and grab’ operation is usually run by locals who organize their teams to steal certain merchandise from criminal groups across the country.

“Crew bosses” organize them. Sometimes they will give them the crowbars. In some cases, they may even let them drive cars or offer escape routes. Dugan explained that it appears chaotic but is very organized.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in September that large-scale store thefts orchestrated by organized crime rings are costing retailers across the US an estimated $45billion in annual losses. 

Best Buy CEO Corie Barry warned that businesses are in danger in the San Francisco area due to rampant looting

Corie Barry from Best Buy warns that there is a danger for businesses in San Francisco due to widespread looting

Raoul formed the Organized Retail Crime Task Force made up of both public and private entities in an effort to address the issue head on. 

Raoul stated that these brazen and violent crimes were committed by highly sophisticated criminal organisations involved in human trafficking, drug trafficking and other serious crime. 

He stated that ‘Even in the looting events last year we realized that some of these criminal actions were not just opportunistic. They had been planned ahead.’

“The Organized Retail Crime Task Force allows investigators to collaborate better with my law enforcement partners. This will ensure cooperation between law enforcement as well as retailers, online marketplaces, and law enforcement to protect consumers, communities and fight the increase in retail criminality.

Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that his office had met with the retailers who requested more police patrols over the weekend.

He stated that you will notice a lot more traffic in areas where there is high footfall, and in the days leading up to Black Friday at shopping malls.

According to him, the California Highway Patrol increased patrols on nearby highway corridors immediately after the weekend’s thefts and asked the local authorities how they could assist.

Newsom signed legislation in July that allowed prosecutors the power to prosecute those who collaborate to steal merchandise. Newsom stated that the state budget for this year included millions to local officials in order to combat retail theft. His January budget proposal would include an “exponential rise of support to cities and counties.”

OAK BROOK, ILLINOIS: Surveillance footage from inside a Louis Vuitton store showed masked shoplifters, top right, pour into the store and grab handfuls of merchandise as customers ran away last week

OAKBROOK (ILLINOIS): A surveillance camera from inside a Louis Vuitton boutique showed masked shoplifters top left, pouring into the store to steal a handful of merchandise while customers run away

He stated that his business had been robbed three times in the past year. “I don’t have empathy or sympathy for them, so they should be punished.” Newsom owns two wine shops in San Francisco.

The majority of the “smash and grabs” were happening near roads in suburban areas where police responses can take longer. Dugan explained that last year the robbers used BLM protests to attack stores throughout several cities including San Francisco.

It was supposed to appear like looting but really it wasn’t. It´s a criminal entity employing other people to steal for them so they can profit by selling it online,’ he said.

Retailers are responsible for about $65billion in annual losses due to organized theft. The bulk of the money is stolen by professional thieves.

A survey by the National Retail Federation found that stores have been experiencing an increase in organized thefts, and more aggressive perpetrators.

Best Buy stock fell 16% Tuesday as the largest electronics retailer in America reported a decline in profits for its fiscal quarter. This was due to organized theft in San Francisco. 

Barry, CEO of the company, stated that he is seeing more organized retail crime in his area and shrinkage incidents. This is an issue that affects and scares people. 

Barry suggested that workers could quit their jobs rather than be threatened by hammer-wielding shoplifters terrorizing California stores with impunity because of lax shoplifting regulations.

Best Buy’s CEO stated that they are increasing security at the store and are looking to keep more of their products safe.  

Experts say that state laws that raise the threshold to determine if a crime is a felony, as well as the possibility of selling stolen goods online contribute to an increase in brash and violent robberies.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott announced that six young men were arrested and two more women were taken into custody. Two guns and two cars were also seized by officers in the wake of Friday’s thefts. Scott explained that the majority of them are residents in the Bay Area, and that some were known to San Francisco Police. Scott also stated that there are likely more arrests over the next few days.

Scott explained that cars will not be allowed to Union Square and will eventually be restricted in access. The area will also be covered with cops.

Scott declared at a Saturday news conference that he would do everything necessary to stop this madness.