San Francisco’s recent flash mob robberies at high-end retail stores like Nordstrom and Louis Vuitton are alarming security experts in the city.
As the holiday season approaches, these brazen “smash-and-grab” robberies may only get worse.
Steve Reed, a retired police officer and the former head of security at Arden Fair Mall, said there are multiple reasons for the increase in robberies.
“I think what happens now is there’s no accountability for it anymore, and the liability for the stores if they try to apprehend these guys. They just stand by and watch,” Steve Reed, a retired police officer and the former head of security at Arden Fair Mall, told ABC 10.
In Walnut Creek recently, roughly 80 robbers wearing ski masks and armed with pepper spray and crowbars looted a Nordstrom, stripping it clean. The robbery happened a day after the San Francisco looting of a Luis Vuitton store near Union Square, which came after another robbery that cleaned out a Sam’s Jeweler’s store. According to police, the suspects even took goods from customers.
Security experts believe that lenient California laws and store policies are to blame.
California laws like Proposition 47 have reduced shoplifting charges for thefts under $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. Stores have also enacted “no-chase policies” according to Fox News, which is encouraging more crime.
San Francisco Police Chief said that without a felony, officers can’t make the arrest.
“Some people calculate, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t want to go over the $950, so let me steal $949 worth of property. If it’s a felony, our officers can take action. But if it’s a misdemeanor, that arrest has to be a private person’s arrest. And that makes a difference because they have to be willing to do that.”
It seems many stores are reluctant to hire more security and some just shut down.
Drug stores like Walgreens and Safeway have permanently closed down some shops or cut back hours due to the increase in retail theft.
Authorities say they have arrested eight individuals in connection with Luis Vuitton robbery, and three involved with the Walnut Creek flash mob.
The three were arrested on gun charges, theft, and assaulting Nordstrom employees. Other individuals involved “fled from the area in cars at high speeds” as seen on surveillance footage.
Meanwhile, the flash mob style robberies have spread across the state to the southland. In Los Angeles, mobs ransacked several Nordstroms and a Home Depot, and attempted to burglarize a Louis Vuitton in Beverly Hills.
Los Angeles law enforcement is currently on high alert.