Smash-and-grab robberies plague cities with liberal district attorneys

California Retailers Association president on rise in smash-and-grab robberies: ‘We need to do something’

Rachel Michelin appeared on ‘America’s Newsroom’ to discuss the crime wave, urging the state to increase policing and conduct prosecution swiftly.

Democratic cities are seeing a wave of smash-and-grab thefts around the holidays, raising concerns about why they’re occurring and how leaders might combat the problem.

Black Friday saw news reports of robberies in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Chicago. High-end stores in San Francisco were vandalized, with thousands of dollars in merchandise retrieved by police. 

Walgreens closed nearly two dozen stores in the liberal city, earning it the moniker “shoplifter’s paradise.” And in October 2020, law enforcement recovered approximately $8 million in stolen merchandise.

Although recent events have drawn attention to the issue, the increase in retail theft appears to have been a long-term trend.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association has estimated that prior to COVID-19 as much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in 2019. In March, the association released the results of a survey showing that a large majority of asset protection managers reported a moderate to considerable increase in organized retail crime since the same month last year. Meanwhile, 80% thought the situation would get worse in 2021.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently accused retailers of not doing enough to combat crime.

“We still have retailers that won’t institute plans like having security officers in their stores, making sure that they’ve got cameras that are actually operational, locking up their merchandise at night, chaining high-end bags,” she said. “These purses can be something that is attracting a lot of organized retail theft units.”

It’s unclear what exactly is behind the apparent spike in shoplifting, but observers have blamed either soft-on-crime policies or conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Hanson, who serves as senior executive vice president for public affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, told The Hill: “Criminals saw that [increase in online shopping] and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. More people are shopping online. Let’s go get more and more product to sell on marketplaces because we can make a lot of money.’” 

Jewelry stores are often targeted in smash-and-grab robberies.
(Conway Police Department)

“I think that’s why you’ve seen this increase in organized crime since the pandemic, just because there are more people shopping online and criminals are seeing an opening to sell both stolen and counterfeit goods because there’s a bigger market.”

In recent months, special attention has been paid to prosecutors like Kim Foxx of Chicago, George Gascon of Los Angeles, and Chesa Boudin of San Francisco – whose victories were backed by groups tied to liberal billionaire George Soros. Neither of their offices provided comment to Fox News.

Both Boudin and Gascon, who have faced recall efforts, have been accused of being soft on crime.

“Not only is it being tolerated because we’re seeing it more, but we’re seeing there’s no prosecution involved in this,” Pete Eliadis, a former law enforcement official and CEO of security company Intelligence Consulting Partners, told Fox News. “Law enforcement is not going to engage with that type of element because it’s an accepted crime.”

Photo of security guard getting hit with bear spray.

Some of the blame has been directed toward California’s Proposition 47 – a 2014 law that lowered shoplifting charges related to the theft of $950 or less from felonies to misdemeanors. Supporters of the ballot measure included then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, then-state Sen. Darrell Steinberg and other Democrats in the state. 

“When society removes accountability for bad behavior, criminals get emboldened to commit more crimes, drug addicts thumb their noses at mandatory treatment, and vandalism and petty theft turn into riotous looting and murder,” the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Craig Lally, previously told Fox News. 

“One does not need to be clairvoyant to have predicted that in California the ACLU’s Proposition 47 would turn a family trip to the mall or a Home Depot into a dangerous gamble for our residents.”

The ACLU did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

(Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)

A spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told Fox News on Monday: “Shoplifting and retail theft crime rings are unacceptable.”

“The governor expects these perpetrators to be prosecuted and held accountable for their crimes,” he said. “He has also taken immediate action to increase CHP presence on highways near popular shopping areas statewide. This year, Gov. Newsom signed legislation to extend the California Highway Patrol Organized Retail Crime Task Force, and he is committed to taking additional action in his January budget.”

California law enforcement created the task force at the end of November amid a string of robberies. Seven Bay Area district attorneys, including Gascon, have also teamed up in an alliance to hold robbers accountable.

In order to disrupt and dismantle the crime rings, elected officials and authorities have to get serious about prosecution, said Betsy Smith, a former Chicago-area law enforcement officer and spokesperson for the National Police Association.

She noted the suspected thieves involved in the Ulta Beauty smash-and-grab in Oak Brook will likely be prosecuted because it sits outside of Cook County, home to Chicago. She also dismissed the idea that COVID-19 was to blame.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano and Emma Colton contributed to this report.

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