Authorities in the Bay Area are investigating whether a series of brazen heists of high-end retail store takeovers could be linked.
The organized thefts shocked residents and triggered further crackdowns on the part of the authorities.
Dist. of San Francisco. Atty. Chesa Boudin said on Tuesday he had charged nine people with crimes in a series of shoplifting incidents, including a mass crush at luxury stores in Union Square.
At least 40 thieves reportedly broke into a Louis Vuitton store on Friday, seizing everything they could before loading it into a series of cars parked in front of the sidewalk. The shoplifting trailer made its way into upscale San Francisco boutiques, creating a scene of chaos while stealing more than a million dollars in merchandise.
San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Mike Redmond said he expects many more arrests in Union Square shoplifting incidents and said the series of mob scams around the Bay Area that began in San Francisco could be linked.
“We think a lot of the same groups are involved,” he said.
Statewide authorities have tightened security at shopping malls.
Los Angeles Police will step up patrols near retail centers to prevent group thefts after a Nordstrom break-in at the Grove Mall.
“We need to make sure the public has a sense of security,” Police Chief Michel Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission, the department’s civilian oversight body. “We are concerned that this kind of conduct is considered permissible, and nothing could be further from the truth.”
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in an interview, “We are going to do everything we can to stop this madness.” But, he added, “we don’t have to shut down Union Square.”
Instead, he said, his agents will prevent people from stopping outside stores like Louis Vuitton. “At these places, people would park right outside, then run into the store, grabbing what they could and hopping into their vehicles. We are going to disrupt this.
Scott said he is also placing enough officers in those areas to prevent a crowd of 40 or 50 from overwhelming the security of the store, as happened last week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the California Highway Patrol has also stepped up its patrols.
In addition to the incidents at Grove and Union Square:
- In a Saturday night raid of a Nordstrom near Walnut Creek just before closing time, some 80 people jumped out of a bundle of cars, flash-mob style, and swarmed the driveways, many of them escaping with the merchandise. Two employees were assaulted, one of whom was sprayed with pepper.
- Then, shortly after midnight Sunday, criminals used a sledgehammer to smash the windows of a Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills, police said, but patrol cars arrived to scare off thieves before they could. they cannot enter.
- Late Sunday, stores were also affected in San Jose and East Bay.
Thefts in 2021 are up 3.2% in Los Angeles from 2020, but are 14.1% lower than in 2019. In and around Union Square in San Francisco, thefts fell by nearly 5% from 2020 to 2021, while burglaries are down 2.3%.