Why some US cities are facing a spree of ‘smash-and-grab’ crimes

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Three suspects were arrested Saturday night after a mob ransacked a Nordstrom department store in Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco. Police said some 80 suspects were involved, and they fled the outdoor mall in at least 10 different vehicles. The robbery follows a similar raid Friday night near San Francisco’s Union Square, where thieves targeted stores in Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s, a Walgreens and cannabis dispensary.
And California isn’t the only place grappling with “smash-and-grab” crimes. Fourteen robbers broke into a Louis Vuitton store in suburban Chicago last week and fled with more than $100,000 in handbags and other merchandise.

So why so many incidents recently? Are they associated with the holiday season? Is this the uneasiness of the pandemic?

“It has nothing to do with the pandemic,” said Pete Eliadis, a former law enforcement officer and founder of the security company. Intelligence Consulting Partners. “Pandemic is overused at this point.”
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But security experts cited a mix of several other factors.

Such cases are not always a priority for law enforcement.

San Francisco has seen a surge in crime since it reopened in the pandemic. In the Central District, for example, incidents of burglaries and burglaries have increased by about 88% from a year ago, and total crime is about 52%, according to police data.
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Many store thieves wear masks or hoods, making them difficult to identify even when viewed on security cameras.

Police in Los Angeles and San Francisco Few arrests have been made, but thieves often face few consequences, Eliadis said.

One reason for this is the lack of resources with law enforcement, which means that cases of theft are sometimes put on hold, he said. And, he said, the “defy the police” movement has demoralized some officers.

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“There is no political will to prosecute people in this environment. Why should a police officer waste time in a brawl when that person is not going to jail because it is too much and the prosecutor is not going to prosecute that case. because it’s not high on the priority list?” Eliadis said.

“The result is that we need political will, more prosecution and the support of law enforcement,” he said.

Thieves may face some consequences

President Linda Buell said the criminalization of low-level crimes in some states has created opportunities for criminals to manipulate the system. Ohio-based security consulting firm SRMC.

For example, California Ballot Initiative Proposition 47, passed in 2014, sought to reduce prison overcrowding by reducing penalties for certain offenses. This measure raised the felony theft limit from $500 to $950.

Buell said, “For a low-level offender, the benefits far outweigh the risks, as the threshold for a misdemeanor offense is $950—meaning a person can steal up to that amount and be charged with only one misdemeanor.” May go.”

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

Security experts said eliminating these sophisticated crime groups should be a law enforcement priority.

“People see the potential to do these ‘smash-and-grab incidents,’ knowing it has little consequence, especially if theft is kept below the threshold of a felony,” Buell said. “It’s easy, it’s fast, and the payback is good.”

Vacations Provide More Opportunities for Stealing

Buell said it’s not unusual for “Smash and Grab” to increase during the Christmas holiday season.

Stores stock up ahead of the holidays, which means there are tons of wares to choose from. That means more opportunities and more convenience for smash-and-grabbers, she said.

But retail theft by organized gangs isn’t limited to the holiday season. In July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Legislation reinstating a task force to investigate organized theft at stores.
A gang of about 80 suspects stole items from this Nordstrom at an outdoor mall in Walnut Creek, California.
“This is not new in the state… We have been very thoughtfully organized to address the issue of organized retail crime over the years,” Newsom said. “We are doubling down on those efforts today.”
In Illinois, Attorney General Kwame Rowley said in september Crime rings cost retailers an estimated $45 billion in annual damages across the country. He created a task force to crack down on organized crime rings targeting the store.

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

There are many places to sell stolen goods

Once items are stolen, there are several ways to sell them — all extremely easy and with less regulation and monitoring from law enforcement, experts said. Eliadis said that most of the items caught in such cases do not have any serial numbers, making them nearly impossible to trace.

Best Buy CEO: Rise in theft is plaguing store employees

“It is incredibly easy to sell stolen merchandise online through an e-commerce platform,” Buell said. “E-commerce has really emerged as a place to sell stolen goods.”

Other thieves are not required to sell their stolen items on Craigslist or eBay. They can also peruse flea markets, pawn shops and street vendors. Eliadis said thieves can sell expensive items at lower prices, meaning there is no shortage of buyers.

The result is a brutal cycle that affects everyone, Eliadis said. Some of the affected stores will be closed or relocated. And theft-plagued retailers see their insurance rates and personal security costs rise — costs that are ultimately passed on to the customer.

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