California’s Newsom Pledges ‘No Sympathy’ for San Francisco Mass Smash-Grab Perpetrators

© REUTERS / SANDY HUFFAKER/POOLCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom attends a news conference to launch a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination supersite in San Diego, California, U.S. February 8, 2021
California Governor Gavin Newsom attends a news conference to launch a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination supersite in San Diego, California, U.S. February 8, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.11.2021
California Governor Gavin Newsom pledged on Monday to strengthen police presence in shopping districts during the holiday season following a series of smash-and-grab robberies by dozens of people in the San Francisco Bay area over the weekend.
"We want real accountability. We want people prosecuted and we want people to feel safe this holiday season,” Newsom told reporters on Monday. He said there would be increased patrols by California Highway Patrol, the state police force, in highly trafficked areas during the holiday shopping season that begins on Friday.
"I’m not the mayor of California. But I was a mayor. And I know when things like this happen, mayors have to step up," Newsom said, adding that his comment wasn’t “an indictment” or “cheap shot” at any of the state’s city leaders. He was previously mayor of San Francisco from 2004 until 2011.
“Look, I have no sympathy, no empathy whatsoever, for people smashing and grabbing, stealing people’s items, creating havoc and terror on our streets. None. Period. Full Stop,” the Golden State’s governor said, calling the robberies "crimes of opportunity, but they’re very well organized … we want real accountability. We want people prosecuted. And we want people to feel safe this holiday season.”
According to The Mercury News, which cited Bay Area law enforcement officials, a number of pharmacies and high-end shops were stormed by groups of up to 80 people at a time, who quickly carried off large amounts of merchandise. Targets in San Francisco included Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Bloomingdale’s, JINS, Maxferd Jewelry & Loan, and Yves Saint Laurent. A Lululemon shop on Santana Row in San Jose was also robbed, and in Oakland, a Walgreens and a Wellspring, two pharmacies, were hit, according to local news.
Video posted on social media showed the smashed storefront of the Louis Vuitton store, and the Oakland Wellspring pharmacy also released its security camera footage, showing several dozen people filing through the store and grabbing items.
San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott told reporters on Saturday that eight had been arrested in connection with some of the robberies. He said police would be limiting car access to certain shopping districts to discourage robberies, which often rely on getaway cars.

‘Shoplifting Capital of the USA?’

For months, news outlets have reported on a “shoplifting spree,” portraying the supposed trend as a collapse of law and order that ultimately stems from the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 against police brutality, which called for militarized police forces to be defunded.
“San Francisco, and the larger Bay Area, now could easily claim the title of Shoplifting Capital of the USA,” the New York Post quipped in a Monday story about the weekend crime spree.
“This brazen criminal behavior is endured every single day by San Franciscans and it is the direct result of District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his enablers’ criminals-first agenda,” Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, told the New York Post in June, referring to a 2014 referendum that lowered the penalty for stealing goods worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“There is no way that any prosecutor in this country can successfully prosecute a case if police don’t make an arrest and do a good job investigating it.”
However, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which cited statistics from the state’s justice and finance departments, shoplifting in the Golden Gate City is at its lowest levels since they began collecting data on the practice in 1975.
Adam Johnson, a journalist and co-host of the Citations Needed podcast, wrote in a July op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle that while much of the hubbub is coming from police forces feeling insecure in the face of unprecedented calls for police reform, companies like Walgreens are also using the story as cover for bad PR incidents like the November 2020 settlement in a Sacramento court in which the company agreed to compensate more than 2,500 employees for $4.5 million in wage theft.
Earlier this month, Ben Dugan, the head of CVS Health’s anti-theft division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the company had lost $200 million a year to shoplifting, claiming the perps then resell the goods online.
“The sale of stolen goods via online marketplaces is increasing rapidly, representing a serious threat to legitimate businesses of all sizes and subjecting our colleagues and in-person and online shoppers to real harm,” Dugan told lawmakers. However, the company last year posted a $7 billion profit, an increase from the year prior, according to The Appeal.
CVS has also given tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyist groups like the California Retail Association and California Chamber of Commerce, both of which have waged a campaign to get Proposition 47 repealed and called for harsher policing of shoplifting, the outlet noted.
It is perhaps also worth noting that a September report by the Bay Area Equity Atlas found that nearly half of Bay Area residents are either low income or very-low income, according to California Department of Housing and Urban Development data. United Ways of California also noted in July that one-quarter of Bay Area residents aren’t making enough money to cover the costs of housing, food, medical care, childcare, or other essentials.
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