The San Francisco metropolitan area is experiencing a severe insecurity crisis. The disease showed one of its most alarming symptoms last weekend when it stormed dozens of luxury stores and marijuana dispensaries in five cities in the region, famous as the cradle of peace in the 1960s and a technology city. Union Square, the heart of this Californian city, has received a severe criminal blow. The stores of the most exclusive brands closed their doors this week after being ransacked. Those that opened are guarded by police patrols. The same fear recurs in the minds of many dependents. This will happen again sooner rather than later.
“It’s unacceptable,” California Governor Gavin Newsom described. The president visited San Francisco this week and admitted to the press that the city store of his wine and spirits company, PlumpJack, had three attempted robberies this year. Newsom, who ruled San Francisco from 2004 to 2010, promised better coordination between authorities and a special support force to fight the gangs of thieves plundering businesses in this city and in Walnut Creek towns for months. , San Jose, Hayward and Oakland.
Historically, San Francisco has had one of the highest rates of business burglary in California. The state average, before the pandemic, was about 2,000 per 100,000 residents. That city was above 4,000. In the area, the vast fortunes of tech companies mix with the misery of the homeless, a phenomenon that does not recede despite the city’s progress. Merchants developed a high tolerance for this type of theft, but businessmen and authorities anxiously noted a pattern that had not been seen before.
Dozens of people organize themselves through social networks and choose where to strike. This comes in the form of a crowd armed with rods and hammers, with windows and shop windows smashed. Hurricane enters where everyone takes what they can in a few seconds, and puts the loot in garbage bags. Cars escaping quickly are waiting for them outside the stores.
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“We have information that it is a group of people, several groups joining forces through social media applications to commit these robberies,” San Francisco Police Chief Liron Armstrong explained.
About 80 masked thieves broke into a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek in east San Francisco on Saturday. They did not get past the first floor before fleeing in 25 cars. The day before, it was the turn of the Louis Vuitton store in Union Square, where 40 people arrived. A clothing store in Auckland was also ransacked by about thirty vandals. The local prosecutor’s office initiated criminal proceedings against only nine detainees. Local law makes it more difficult to combat this type of crime, because theft is considered serious if the amount stolen exceeds $950.
“I wouldn’t even call it organized crime, that was domestic terrorism,” Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retail Association, told local network Fox after her spate of assaults over the weekend.
Although some of these behaviors could be described as rioting, police have warned that some groups operate with outright hostility toward the authorities. The Oakland police chief explained this week that thieves fired more than 170 shots on Friday, November 19, when officers confronted them to prevent them from storming empty marijuana dispensaries.
Anxiety gave way to scandal. Recently, a video was posted in which, without doing anything, a police patrol noticed how three attackers, unarmed, were fleeing seconds after leaving a store with bags full of merchandise. Surveillance camera material lifted spirits in a community looking for explanations amid the wave that fueled it in 2021 after the gradual reopening of stores following the pandemic-imposed shutdown.
Some of the big chains have publicly complained about the months-long situation. Pharmacy empire Walgreens reported this year that it will close five stores in San Francisco due to an increase in thefts. Its competitor, CVS, noted that it has registered a 300% increase in thefts within its stores nationwide since the start of the pandemic, generating $200 million in losses (0.1% of annual profits). Target, the US retail giant, also cut opening hours at five stores in the city in an effort to curb the bleeding. “In recent months, we have seen a significant and alarming increase in thefts and security incidents in our San Francisco stores,” a spokeswoman said. The message contained an alert bell as the United States entered the holiday season.
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