Gov. Gavin Newsom wants retail thieves to know that crime doesn’t pay.
Up and down the state, smash-and-grab gangs have been rampaging through some of the state’s most luxurious stores to snatch Gucci suitcases, Saint Laurent purses, Chanel jewelry and Nike sneakers while security guards and shoppers look on in shock.
To fight this crime, the governor on Thursday revealed he was disbursing $267 million in state funds over the next three years to 55 city and county law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. The money aims to beef up retail theft investigative units, increase arrests, install advanced surveillance technology, train loss-prevention officers, create new task forces and increase cooperation with businesses and the community.
“Enough with these brazen smash-and-grabs. We’re ensuring law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to take down these criminals,” Newsom said in a statement.
RELATED: Rash of Smash-and-grab Robberies in Los Angeles Leave Retailers Unsettled and Angry
On Friday, state and local law enforcement officials receiving these funds outlined in a press conference how they would use the money to apprehend the criminal minds behind these robberies.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the $15.3 million his department is receiving will provide extra staff and overtime to cope with the rise in retail crime. “We are approximately 600 officers short. This grant will allow us to expand our overtime efforts and will also help us to deploy more foot-beat officers and more plainclothes team officers,” he said. “We’ve been successful with these operations, but there’s just not enough of us to do more. We need to do more.”
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, whose department is receiving $2 million, said the funds will allow her to add a dedicated prosecutor for this specific crime. “At this point, retail theft cases are spread across a number of lawyers in our general felonies unit and in my white-collar crimes unit,” she said. “This allows one lawyer to dedicate themselves to build cases from start to finish.”
Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Holly Francisco said her department was awarded $15.6 million to combat crimes that have grown more dangerous as criminals are deploying bear spray, pepper spray and using weapons when they invade stores. “That money will be used to fund a fully staffed and equipped investigative unit with the ability to specifically focus on combating these crimes,” she said.
The Los Angeles Police Department also received $15.6 million in funds approved by the Board of State and Community Corrections in a competitive grant process for which each law enforcement agency had to apply.
San Francisco and Los Angeles are the two main California cities that have seen a swarm of brazen, mostly daytime thefts that have left shoppers and store owners shocked by the throng of masked robbers converging on just one store.
Recently, Los Angeles experienced several smash-and-grab thefts in just a few weeks. On Aug. 12, a swift-moving band of 30 people entered a Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga shopping center and absconded with $300,000 worth of merchandise from displays near the entrance, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
On Aug. 8, a flash mob of about 30 to 40 people invaded a Saint Laurent store at the Americana at Brand near Los Angeles, snatching about $400,000 in merchandise, the Glendale Police Department said.
On July 31, several individuals wearing masks piled through the entrance of a Gucci store in Westfield Century City, running away with suitcases valued at $4,000 and purses that fetch as much as $4,200 each. Two security guards, overwhelmed by the number of people, watched in disbelief.
Weeks earlier, another Gucci store was robbed in San Francisco’s Union Square where intruders took $48,000 worth of merchandise, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
Following the rash of Los Angeles robberies, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass in August set up her own special task force to address the wave of robberies, which will be investigated with the help of other local law-enforcement agencies.
“The Los Angeles Police Department’s primary duty is to ensure the safety and security of our community members and businesses,” she said at the time. “Retail theft not only affects businesses financially but also has a broader impact on the overall well-being of our community.”