Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday directed the California Highway Patrol to increase their presence near major retail sites after a string of thefts targeting high-end stores, including in Los Angeles.
“The level of organized retail theft we are seeing is simply unacceptable,” Newsom said. “Businesses and customers should feel safe while doing their holiday shopping.”
Newsom said his office met with retailers over the weekend who asked for more police patrols.
“You will see substantially more starting today, in and around areas that are highly trafficked and coming into the holiday season Black Friday in shopping malls,” he told reporters Monday at an event in San Francisco.
He said the California Highway Patrol immediately stepped up patrols along nearby highway corridors following the recent thefts.
“Saturation patrols” will continue through the holiday season to help catch the thieves, officials said.
Over the weekend, groups of thieves smashed glass cases and window displays and ransacked high-end stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
About 80 people ransacked a Nordstrom in the Bay Area. Police called it “clearly a planned event.”
Before that, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana in San Francisco’s Union Square were all targeted Friday night by a large group of people who smashed windows and stole merchandise.
At a Lululemon store in San Jose, packs of thieves ransacked the store, stealing nearly $50,000 in merchandise.
On Sunday, the storefront windows of the Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Beverly Hills were smashed with sledgehammers during attempted burglaries that involved multiple people who “descended on the locations and used a sledgehammer to try to break through front windows,” police said.
Beverly Hills police increased patrols in the area, with support from armed private security.
On Monday night, about 20 people were involved in a smash-and-grab incident at the Nordstrom store at The Grove.
The thefts are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit people to steal merchandise in stores throughout the country then sell it in online. Most of the flash mob robberies had been happening in stores near highways in suburbs where police response can be slower.
In July, Newsom signed a law that allows prosecutors to charge those who work with others to steal merchandise. 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.”
The governor said his wine business in San Francisco has also been targeted this year.
“My business has been broken into three times this year,” he said. “I have no empathy, no sympathy for these folks, and they must be held to account.”