CALIFORNIA, USA — Authorities and witnesses said about 80 people, some wearing ski masks and wielding crowbars, swarmed a department store in Walnut Creek, stealing merchandise before fleeing in dozens of cars.
Police say three people were arrested while the majority got away after the large-scale theft Saturday night at the Nordstrom in Walnut Creek. The incident came a day after police said several high-end stores in San Francisco's Union Square were broken into by a large group of people who smashed windows, stole merchandise, and then ran to waiting cars.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom sounded off on the incidents during a press briefing while touring a Bay Area vaccine clinic. He called for the people responsible to be held to account.
“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," Newsom said. "We want real accountability. We want people prosecuted, and we want people to feel safe this holiday season.”
He referenced California's retail theft task force that was re-established in July and efforts underway to help cities and counties experiencing issues.
“You have already seen on 680, SR-4, increased highway patrol presence. You will see substantially more starting today in and around areas... coming into the holiday season, Black Friday and shopping malls. So the state is supplementing those efforts and we are going to be more aggressive still in this space to help supports cities and prosecution of folks,” he said.
By way of the taskforce, Newsom said the California Highway Patrol and police in San Francisco and Walnut Creek were in contact hours after the incidents occurred. He said that CHP even provided an increased presence along 680 per their request.
Meanwhile, officials also met with retailers over the weekend who called for increased presence in and around large retail centers and shopping malls throughout the Bay Area. Newsom said people will see that presence serving as a visible deterrence.
"These people need to be held to account. We need to investigate these crimes. We need to break up these crime rings and we need to make an example out of these folks,” Newsom said.
Newsom added that he intends to provide an exponential increase of support to address retail theft and other quality of life issues that he'll submit to the legislature in his budget.
The mob attacks are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit mainly young people to steal merchandise then sell it in online marketplaces. Experts and officials say the thefts are happening nationwide and are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season gets underway.
Recently in San Jose, a robbery at Valley Fair Mall. At the same time, a group making out with more than $47,000 worth of goods across the street at Santana Row's Lululemon.
The emboldened, organized, crime rings: a concern for former Arden Fair Mall head of security calling on government officials to get tough on theft.
"if we're not going to hold people accountable," Steve Reed, former Arden Fair Mall head of security said. "They're going to continue to do that because there's no consequence for their actions."