Authorities see significant spike in smash-and-grab crimes

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (CNN) – Some holiday shoppers may see a heavier security presence than they are used to at retail locations this year. It’s for good reason. There has been a rash of violent thefts by mobs in several cities.A coordinated smash-and-grab swarm overwhelmed security at a Louis Vuitton store. More than $100,000 in handbags and more were stolen.

In downtown San Francisco this past weekend: another Vuitton store, and more, hit by a mob.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, “This is not a problem limited to San Francisco.”

Just outside the city, burglars with their arms filled with merch made their getaway from a Nordstrom Saturday night. An employee was pepper-sprayed during the brazen raid.

“I probably saw like 50 to 80 people in like ski masks, crowbars, like, bunch of weapons,” PF Chang’s at Walnut Creek employee Brett Barrette said.

They fled in 10 cars. Three arrests were made, two guns were recovered.

Sunday night, there was another raid at another Bay Area mall.

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said, “The thing that we are not used to is these groups’ willingness to actually use firearms and shoot at people.”

At the Grove down in L.A., a Nordstrom was hit Monday night. $5,000 worth of goods were stolen, $15,000 worth of damage. This mall had beefed up security after the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd.

Rick Caruso with The Grove said, “You saw these bad guys with 20-pound sledgehammers having a very difficult time to break a window because all of our windows have ballistic film on ‘em.”

Many more malls are now beefing up security and California authorities are promising action.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “These people need to be held to account, we need to investigate these crimes, we need to break up these crime rings and we need to make an example out of these folks.”

In Oakland, California this weekend, Chief Armstrong said, “We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city.”

But as we saw at that San Francisco raid, even when cops are quick to the scene, with a mob, many will still get away.

So why is this happening right now? Well, the stores are fully stocked for the holidays and there’s also a market for stolen goods this time of year. And some experts tell us the penalties for this sort of crime just aren’t high enough. In California, for example, if you steal goods worth $950 or less, that’s not a felony. That’s just a misdemeanor.

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