Newsom, who recently signed legislation targeting organized retail theft, said the California Highway Patrol immediately stepped up patrols along nearby highway corridors following this weekend's thefts, and asked local officials how they could help.
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,” said Newsom, who owns a wine store in San Francisco. “I have no empathy, no sympathy for these folks, and they must be held to account.”
Until recently, most organized robberies had been happening in suburban stores near highways where police response is often slower, said Dugan, of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail. But last year, he said, groups of people took advantage of nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and ransacked stores in a number of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland.
“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,” he said.
The National Retail Federation said a recent survey found stores nationwide are seeing an increase in organized thefts and aggressive behavior among perpetrators.
Following Friday's thefts, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said officers arrested six men and two women, all young adults, and seized two guns and two vehicles. Most are residents of the Bay Area and some are known to San Francisco police, Scott said at a news conference Saturday, 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,” he added.
The following day, about 80 people, some wearing ski masks and wielding crowbars, ransacked a Nordstrom at an outdoor mall in Walnut Creek, stealing as much merchandise as they could before fleeing in waiting cars, police and witnesses said.
Two employees were assaulted and one was hit with pepper spray during what police called a “clearly a planned event” Saturday in the city's downtown shopping district. Walnut Creek police said they arrested two suspects and recovered a gun.
Similar scenes of young-looking people, clad in hoodies and masks, ransacking stores were repeated Sunday in jewelry, sunglasses and clothing stores in Hayward and San Jose, police said.
In Hayward, about 10 people walked into a jewelry store inside a mall Sunday evening, smashed glass cases, and stole items. Witnesses said the thieves then got into waiting cars.
Around the same time, a group of people ransacked a sunglasses shop and a Lululemon store in San Jose, stealing nearly $50,000 in merchandise, San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said Monday.
“We’re not going to call this looting,” Camarillo told the Mercury News. “This is organized robbery.”
The group that targeted the Lululemon store consisted of two women and two men, including one who had a “visible gun in his waistband,” he added.