Shaken holiday shoppers change plans amid spate of retail crime – CBS San Francisco
By Juliette Goodrich and Shawn Chitnis
LIVERMORE (KPIX) – A violent wave of armed robberies targeting Bay Area retail stores has put shoppers, store workers and business owners on edge as the holiday shopping season begins .
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Union Square in San Francisco was one of the first shopping districts hit last Friday night when a Louis Vuitton store was among many stores that were looted. Over the weekend, businesses boarded up their windows as police stepped up patrols in response to the wave of violence.
Several other stores and malls in the area have been targeted, with thieves breaking into stores in Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Hayward and San Jose.
At San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore on Monday, police could be seen in patrol cars on the nearby freeway on ramps and exit ramps, just in case a group tried to hit the outlets. and take off on I-580.
But buyers said they were keenly aware that anything could happen.
The holiday shopping experience has undoubtedly been marred by the recent spate of smash and grab crime over the weekend.
“My friends were actually there when there was a theft, they must have been stuck in a store during a robbery,” said a buyer from Pleasanton, referring to the Hayward Mall incident.
On Monday, she was out at the mall shopping with her mother and sister.
“It’s alarming, that’s why we are here during the day,” she said.
When asked if the wave of crime had changed her hours and shopping habits, she replied, “Most definitely. I just got home from college and just heard about everything that happened. It’s a bit overwhelming, ”she explained.
Many buyers have said they are worried about the growing trend of mass thefts and the looming question: where are they going to strike next?
“I was surprised because I never thought this would happen in Walnut Creek. I don’t think that’s going to happen here in Pleasanton or Dublin, ”said another buyer.
But there was an attempt at Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton just after 1 a.m. Monday morning. A group of nine people were seen on surveillance footage of the mall breaking into the mall, but they discovered that all of the stories had gates preventing entry.
Pleasanton Police say nothing was stolen. No arrests have been made in the case, but are studying the surveillance video and trying to identify the suspects.
“It’s devastating to see what’s been going on lately,” a buyer told KPIX.
However, authorities are trying to remedy the situation with a more visible police presence throughout the Tri-Valley region at various shopping destinations.
Although Black Friday sales take place at some retailers, it may not be a driving force for shoppers. Some stores say they will simply extend Black Friday sales throughout the holiday season.
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At least one customer has told KPIX that she will not go to the stores.
“No shopping for Black Friday,” she said. “Be careful!”
Shoppers may have returned to Bay Area retail destinations like Broadway Plaza after a mass theft at Nordstrom on Saturday, but fear it could happen again as police continue to search for suspects .
“Usually when we see these kinds of things happening, they’re well organized. They’re bigger groups, ”said Howard Jordan, a former Oakland Police Chief who now runs his own consulting firm. “It has to be a regional approach, doesn’t it? It’s not just San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Oakland. It’s everywhere.”
Jordan told KPIX 5 on Monday that he wanted to see more coordination with law enforcement to try and locate the suspects before they hit another store. He also echoed calls for harsh prosecutions against anyone convicted of these crimes. Rewards for the public to provide information could also help in the response, he suggested.
“The state is complementing these efforts and we are going to be even more aggressive in this space to help support cities and the prosecution of people,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference Monday. “I have no sympathy, no empathy whatsoever for the people who crush and grab, steal people’s objects, causing chaos and terror in our streets. Nothing. Period. Complete stop. “
The governor joined local leaders in his pledge of more security and a greater police presence in shopping malls before the holidays. Critics of local leaders say they have a habit of not picking on criminals for non-violent accusations.
“If they stop all 80s and chase all 80s to the max, then I will publicly commend them for that, but until then they are not used to doing this,” said GOP chairman Matt Shupe. of Contra Costa County. .
KPIX 5 has contacted district attorneys in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties for their comments on this matter. The two declined interview requests, explaining that they wanted to wait until the investigations into the mass theft cases in their respective jurisdictions were closed.
Jordan says some of the work needed to stop those crimes is already underway, but he wants to wait and see what charges will be laid against the suspects in any event over the weekend. He hopes that in a month, many more suspects will be in custody.
“I would be surprised if the departments in the Bay Area weren’t already working on a plan to deal with this type of activity. I would be very shocked if they are not, ”he said. “Social media has probably been the greatest vehicle or medium of communication for criminals. “
State and local leaders hope these crimes won’t drive shoppers away from Bay Area malls and shopping districts, as many businesses hope the vacation will help them recover from a difficult year and a half for the pandemic. Jordan says the public should be careful but shouldn’t be afraid and stay home.
“You should enjoy your life and carry on with your life as you normally can. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be careful, ”he said.
Walnut Creek Police said on Monday that the dozens of looters who rushed the Nordstrom on Saturday night took between $ 100,000 and $ 200,000 in merchandise.
Although the city began placing agents inside Nordstrom earlier this year after similar armed robberies, no officer was on site just before 9 p.m. Saturday when the coordinated attack took place.
Connors said it was not clear whether there was a link between the Nordstrom flight and other incidents in the Bay Area. She said police believed another attempt would be made at Nordstrom on Sunday night, and police blocked the other end of the street and put their team ready and on alert. No issues were reported.
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“I don’t know if that turned them away, or what happened,” Connors said. “We had information that this same group could come back. We prepared.”