After spate of brazen retail thefts, Calif. governor vows more police funding

The state has also created a special task force that works to crack down on retail crimes

By Sophia Bollag
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom called a spate of retail thefts over the weekend “unacceptable” and said he would increase money for cities to address them in next year’s budget.

A string of luxury stores were burglarized in San Francisco on Friday night, including Louis Vuitton in Union Square and Burberry in the Westfield mall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The next night, NBC Bay Area reported about 80 people rushed into the Nordstrom in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza shopping district and made off with bags of merchandise.

Union Square visitors look at damage to the Louis Vuitton store on Nov. 21, 2021, after looters ransacked businesses in San Francisco.
Union Square visitors look at damage to the Louis Vuitton store on Nov. 21, 2021, after looters ransacked businesses in San Francisco. (Danielle Echeverria/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

"We are going to be more aggressive still in this space to help support cities and the prosecution of folks,” Newsom said Monday in San Francisco, where he was attending a COVID-19 vaccination event. “I have no empathy, no sympathy for these folks, and they must be held to account.”

Newsom said he understands how difficult these thefts are for the affected stores, and said his own businesses have been broken into three times this year. Newsom founded a hospitality company called PlumpJack that includes wineries, restaurants and retail stores, which he placed in a blind trust when he became governor. His office said PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in San Francisco’s Marina District has been broken into four times since the start of the pandemic and its sister store in the city’s Noe Valley neighborhood was broken into over the weekend.

When he unveils his 2022-23 budget proposal in January, Newsom said it will “substantially” increase funding for cities to address organized retail crime, which he said keeps people from feeling safe in their communities.

This year, Newsom said the state is already spending millions to address the problem, including through a California Highway Patrol task force that works to partner state and local police to crack down on retail crimes. Newsom said that effort has launched more than 700 investigations, made hundreds of arrests and returned $20 million in stolen items. He said state police are working with San Francisco and Walnut Creek after the weekend thefts.

Through the task force, Newsom says state police have already dispatched more officers to patrol Interstate 680 and that California shoppers can expect to see more police presence at popular Black Friday destinations and malls this week.

Increased law enforcement presence will hopefully be a deterrent during what is traditionally the biggest shopping event of the year, Newsom said. He added that mayors need to “step up” to address the crimes, and said his budget proposal would provide an “exponential increase of support” to help them do that.

“We need to break up these crime rings, and we need to make an example out of these folks,” Newsom said. “We cannot allow this to continue.”

The state Republican Party lashed out at Newsom after his comments, arguing Democrats’ embrace of policies that reduced criminal punishment for some theft crimes set the stage for the burglaries he was now pledging to combat.

“Gavin Newsom and California Democrats have made our state a more dangerous place to live, work and raise a family,” the party said in a statement. “Their failed policies have very real consequences for hard-working Californians.”

©2021 The Sacramento Bee. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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