Seven California district attorneys have formed an alliance with each other and local police and state law enforcement agencies that aims to combat the recent increase in organized retail theft.
The DAs for Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin and San Joaquin counties say they’ll share information and pool investigative efforts across jurisdictional boundaries to hold thieves responsible for the pre-meditated, mob-style “smash-and-grab” or “takeover” robberies.
“Each office has pledged a prosecutor to collaborate and participate in the joint effort,” according to a joint statement released Tuesday by the district attorneys.
The alliance among DAs follows incidents across the Bay Area over the past week during which mobs of thieves brazenly stormed into businesses and made off with merchandise. In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered increased CHP presence at shopping centers during the holiday season.
Incidents have occurred in Walnut Creek, where dozens of thieves stormed a Nordstrom store on Saturday, and also in Oakland, Fairfield, Pleasanton, Hayward, Santa Clara, San Leandro and San Jose. KPIX 5 has complied a timeline of recent incidents here. In addition to high-end jewelry and clothing stores, cannabis dispensaries have been victimized. Last month, a jewelry store at Serramonte Center in Daly City was targeted.
On Tuesday, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin announced nine people are facing felony charges in connection with incidents at a Union Square Louis Vuitton store, a Walgreens and a cannabis business.
The new DAs alliance aims to hold more suspects accountable via the sharing of data, crime analytics and pooled investigative tools. The DA offices say they’ll continue to collaborate with local retailers and state representatives to “ensure statutes that cover organized theft rings are enforceable and improves safety for consumers.”
“The recent premeditated retail theft mob action in multiple cities across Northern California is intolerable and will not be accepted by District Attorneys, law enforcement officials and our community members,” said San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. “Anyone caught engaging in such criminal conduct should expect to find themselves facing prosecution, conviction and incarceration. There is no leniency for such behavior.”
Witnesses of organized retail theft can also play a significant role in cracking down on organized retail theft, according to the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Crime Task Force. The agency advises against intervening in the crime, but asks the public to note what the people involved looked like, and, if possible, obtain a license plate and vehicle description. Shoppers should report suspicious activity to store managers or the police when safe to do so, and also submit photos and video of the suspects or criminal activity as long as that can be done safely. You can report suspicious activity to the California Highway Patrol Organized Retail Crime Task Force or learn more about the program here.
“California has seen shifts in crime trends and tactics, and Bay Area prosecutors are forming this partnership to meet the moment,” said Cristine DeBerry, Executive Director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California. “Partnerships like [the DA’s alliance] reflect the need to implement modern solutions to modern problems. These crimes happen quickly, and they may not be caught in the act. Through information sharing and coordination, there will be greater likelihood of arrests and accountability than everyone working in isolation.”
Image from video released by Concord Police Department of the smash-and-grab robbery of a jewelry store at Sun Valley Mall on Nov. 16.