Crime String of Thefts at High-End San Francisco Stores Have Officials Wary of Coordinated Effort
San Francisco Target theft suspect arrested for alleged thefts of more than $40G from store
A 41-year-old woman whom authorities described as a "prolific retail thief," is facing numerous charges for allegedly stealing more than $40,000 worth of items from a Target in San Francisco, which has been plagued by brazen thieves pilfering convenience stores, sometimes in the presence of security staff and customers, forcing some to close multiple locations in the city. Aziza Graves was arrested at the same Target at the Stonestown Galleria where she is alleged to have been involved in 120 theft incidents. The thefts occurred between October 2020 and November of this year, prosecutors said.
Several robberies were carried out over the weekend at high-end stores in and around the San Francisco Bay Area with thousands of dollars of jewelry, sunglasses, clothes and other merchandise stolen.
According to The Associated Press, law enforcement officials believe the thefts to be the work of organized crime networks recruiting young people to steal valuable merchandise, then sell it online.
Authorities planning to file felony charges in San Francisco retail thefts
San Francisco's district attorney is preparing to announce felony charges against eight people arrested in connection with a mass retail theft that occurred Friday night.District Attorney Chesa Boudin told local news station KPIX 5 on Tuesday that he was close to announcing the charges against the eight suspects, who were part of an organized group that stole more than $1 million in a series of smash-and-grabs at various stores in Union Square, a shopping plaza in the city. Boudin said 25 additional individuals were involved in the crime, and police were working to apprehend them. "We make sure there are consequences," Boudin said.
"We're not talking about someone who needs money or needs food. These are people who go out and do this for high profit, and for the thrill," said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail.
The people recruited to perform the thefts are paid $500 to $1,000 to take as much merchandise as they can or steal specific items, and bring it to certain people who then send it to other parts of the country to be resold, the AP reported.
The robberies in San Francisco started around 8 p.m. Friday, when the Union Square Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale's, among other stores, were invaded by people stealing merchandise and running to nearby cars.
The so-called criminal flash mobs are a growing trend designed to look chaotic, but law enforcement officials say they are quite the opposite and can also hide in and around other events.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Promises to Boost Police Funding Amid Shoplifting Wave
"We want to protect people and we want to respect people's rights, including small business owners," Newsom said.Newsom, a Democrat, made the remarks during a speech at a COVID-19 vaccination event in San Francisco on Monday. He described multiple high-profile Bay Area robberies, including the organized storming of a Nordstrom luxury department store on Saturday, as "unacceptable" before noting that California had recently reestablished a retail theft task force.
During the protests across the country and in San Francisco in the summer of 2020 following the murder ofby Minneapolis police, Dugan said similar thievery took place in multiple cities.
"It was meant to look like looting, but it really wasn't. It's a criminal entity employing other people to steal for them so they can profit by selling it online," Dugan said.
For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.
Videos of the chaotic scene posted on social media by witnesses showed police officers dragging one suspect from a waiting car and people running with merchandise in their arms or dragging suitcases.
The flash mobs are usually organized by local people who recruit their crews and send them to steal specific merchandise requested by criminal organizations throughout the country, Dugan said.
Gov.said his office met with retailers over the weekend who asked for more police patrols.
San Francisco DA charges 9 involved in organized retail thefts
The district attorney in San Francisco on Tuesday night announced felony charges against nine people allegedly involved in a string of organized retail theft crimes.Chesa Boudin filed felony charges against Francill White, Tomiko Miller, Kimberly Cherry, Ivan Speed, Raymond Phillips, Edward James Jr., Michael Ray, Jamisi Callaway and Daron Wilson in connection with the recent thefts, according to a local NBC News station. Five of theChesa Boudin filed felony charges against Francill White, Tomiko Miller, Kimberly Cherry, Ivan Speed, Raymond Phillips, Edward James Jr., Michael Ray, Jamisi Callaway and Daron Wilson in connection with the recent thefts, according to a local NBC News station.
"You will see substantially more starting today, in and around areas that are highly trafficked and coming into the holiday season Black Friday in shopping malls," he told reporters Monday at an event in San Francisco.
He said the California Highway Patrol immediately stepped up patrols along nearby highway corridors following the thefts this weekend and asked local officials how they could help.
In July, Newsom signed a law that allows prosecutors to charge those who work with others to steal merchandise. He said this year's state budget included millions of dollars for local officials to address retail theft and his January budget proposal will include an "exponential increase of support to help cities and counties."
"My business has been broken into three times this year," he said. "I have no empathy, no sympathy for these folks, and they must be held to account." Newsom owns two wine shops in San Francisco.
Most of the flash mob robberies had been happening in stores near highways in suburbs where police response can be slower.
Retailers lose about $65 billion each year to organized theft, the bulk stolen by professional thieves. Criminal flash mobs are part of a growing national trend, he said.
Retailers ramp up security, cities reroute traffic to combat organized theft rings
A lingering fear of coordinated large-scale robberies is rattling retailers, not only in major cities but in suburbs not normally targeted.Along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, a pair of private security companies are patrolling the ritzy shopping district in response to attempted smash-and-grab robberies at Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores last weekend.
Last week, fourteen suspects went into a Louis Vuitton store in Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, pulled large plastic bags from their coats and filled them with clothing and other items, stealing more than $120,000 in merchandise, police said.
The National Retail Federation said a recent survey found stores are seeing an increase in organized thefts and perpetrators being more aggressive.
Experts said state laws raising the threshold for what constitutes a felony and the ease of reselling stolen goods online are contributing to the increase in brash robberies.
Following Friday's thefts, San FranciscoChief Bill Scott said officers arrested six men and two women, all young adults, and seized two guns and two vehicles. They are mostly residents of the Bay Area and some are known to San Francisco police, Scott said, adding that he expects more suspects will be arrested in the coming days.
Car access to the streets in Union Square will soon be limited and the area will be flooded with police officers, Scott said.
"We will do what we need to do to put an end to this madness," Scott said at a news conference Saturday.
Hours later, about 80 people, some wearing ski masks and wielding crowbars, ransacked a Nordstrom at an outdoor mall in Walnut Creek 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, assaulting employees and stealing merchandise before fleeing in waiting cars, police and witnesses said.
$25,000 in luxury purses stolen in latest 'grab and go' theft in California: What to know
About $25,000 worth of luxury purses were stolen from a Nordstrom store in LA. Here's what to know about the 'flash mob' thefts.Los Angeles police said a security guard was sprayed with an irritant meant to deter charging bears at the Westfield Topanga & The Village shopping center in Canoga Park. The stolen bags were estimated to be worth $25,000, local media reported.
Two employees were assaulted and one was hit with pepper spray during what police called a "clearly a planned event" Saturday in the downtown shopping district in the city. Walnut Creek police said they arrested two suspects and recovered a gun.
Similar scenes of young people wearing hoodies and masks were repeated Sunday in jewelry, sunglasses and clothing stores in the cities of Hayward and San Jose, police said.
In Hayward, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of San Francisco, about 10 people walked into a jewelry store inside a mall Sunday evening, smashed glass cases, and stole jewelry. Witnesses said the thieves then got into waiting cars.
Around the same time, packs of thieves ransacked a sunglasses store and a Lululemon store in San Jose, stealing nearly $50,000 in merchandise, San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said Monday.
The group that targeted the Lululemon store included two women and two men, including one who had a "visible gun in his waistband," he added.
How law enforcement is trying to stop mob retail thefts .
With in-store customers expected to return in droves for the holiday shopping season, law enforcement agencies are moving to halt a wave of organized "smash-and-grab" crimes at retailers across the US. © Santa Rosa Police Department Stills from surveillance footage of a new smash and grab robbery that occurred Wednesday, 11/24/21, in Santa Rosa, California, at the Apple Store in the Santa Rosa Plaza. Hand out stills from the Santa Rosa Police Department. In Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities, police departments are increasing patrols at retailers targeted by mobs of thieves in brazen raids.