Press Secretary Jen Psaki was pressed by Peter Doocy of Fox News regarding a string of organized retail thefts, most notably affecting the San Francisco Bay Area.
“When a huge group of criminals organizes themselves and they want to go loot a store until the shelves are clean, you think that’s because of the pandemic?” Doocy asked. “I think a root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic, Yes.” Psaki replied.
REPORTER: “When a huge group of criminals organizes themselves and they want to go loot a store—a CVS, Nordstorm, a Home Depot—until the shelves are clean, you think that’s because of the pandemic?”
JEN PSAKI: “Yes” pic.twitter.com/qUKeWFSXkS
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 2, 2021
Organized looting has been a problem in multiple U.S. cities since 2020. Several instances have been caused following social unrest, often caused by police shootings, where criminals have taken advantage of chaos and looted stores. Organized theft rings have become a constant burden in California, however, particularly in the Bay Area.
Large groups of thieves have swarmed multiple high-end retail locations and other department stores, including a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco on November 23. Some locations have been entirely emptied of merchandise on multiple occasions, prompting closures. Criminals have been known to casually fill bags with merchandise while shoppers and security hopelessly look on.
Meanwhile Walgreens store in San Francisco got looted! pic.twitter.com/vSI42Yc3kq
— PATRIOT (@BlessUSA2024) August 15, 2020
Nine people are facing felony charges for a series of smash-and-grab robberies in San Francisco. Five of the suspects are charged in connection with an incident at a Louis Vuitton store last Friday. pic.twitter.com/5OjHSiA0oJ
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) November 24, 2021
Rampant smash-and-grab robberies have caused several retail outlets to board up in San Francisco’s Union Square in order to prevent looting. This has put a damper on the neighborhood’s otherwise busy and festive Christmas season. In Oakland, a news crew covering a recent theft were the target of an attempted armed robbery. A security guard who was protecting the crew, Kevin Nishita, was shot and killed during the incident.
In California, theft of goods valued under $1,000 is classified as a misdemeanor. This was enacted in 2014 with the passage of Proposition 47. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently blamed local officials for the rampant theft, citing lack of prosecution in regards to shoplifting crime. Though Newsom touted “criminal justice reform” measures implemented by his administration and defended Proposition 47, he called the recent string of organized thefts “unacceptable.”
“If people are breaking in, people stealing your property, they need to be arrested. Police need to arrest them. Prosecutors need to prosecute them. Judges need to hold people accountable for breaking the law,” Newsom said. “These are not victimless crimes, and I have no empathy for these criminal elements.”
The governor called for the prosecution of thefts under $950 as misdemeanors that could be “stacked” into felonies for repeat offenders. “I want to see local efforts. I want to see them stepped up,” said Newsom, who previously served as Mayor of San Francisco. “Look at the laws. You have the ability. Stack repeat offenders and move to prosecute.”