Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that the COVID-19 epidemic was the main cause of organized retail crime. She also said that the Biden administration has been working with many communities to “crackdown” on the crime in these areas. In recent weeks, looters known as Smash-and-Grab have targeted stores all across the country, robbing them of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Psaki stated that President Biden had called for an increase of funding to local police departments to “ensure that local community is working in partnership to combat crime and other dangers they see within their communities.”
Psaki said that the president is certain that community police officers can be an important instrumental force in keeping communities safe. She cited guns and the COVID-19 pandemic to be the “root” causes for the rise in organized retail theft.
Psaki stated that guns and violence are the main causes of crime in communities and that statistics have shown that in many communities, the pandemic is a major factor.
A White House official said that the administration was monitoring looting reports and that officials had seen some of the “disturbing videos” documenting the thefts. The official stated that they are using all resources to support local authorities in cracking down on organized retail theft.
Official added that the Justice Department and the FBI had been in contact with the relevant jurisdictions to offer their assistance in investigations.
The president had also provided historic funding levels through the Rescue Plan to communities to increase the number of cops on the streets. The DOJ recently announced that San Francisco and Los Angeles will receive funding through the $140M COPS program.
The White House push comes amid a spate of smash-and-grab robberies in cities across the country.
Five suspects robbed $25K worth of purses from the Nordstrom store at Westfield Topanga in Los Angeles, just before Thanksgiving. A group of four thieves stole sunglasses worth $30K from a Sunglass Hut in Monterey, California. In broad daylight in San Francisco, thieves aged between 14 and 18 stole more than $20K worth of merchandise from an Apple Store.
The crime has also spread to other parts of the country, such as Chicago where thieves stole merchandise from midnight to 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving. Oakland police reported that at least two dozen businesses in San Fran were vandalized by mobs of thieves last weekend. In San Jose, the crimes extended to San Jose where four individuals stole $40K from Lululemon. This was in an “organized robbery.”
There has been an increase in shopliftings and robberies. According to the NRF, 69% of retailers reported an increase in organized retail crime this year. This was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as changes in sentencing guidelines, policing, and the growth of online marketplaces.
According to the NRF, 65% of respondents said that violence has increased in these incidents. 78% of retailers believed that a federal organized criminal offense law would “effectively address these issues”. This is partly because the problem is multi-jurisdictional and crosses state boundaries.