For evidence that crime will likely be a key issue for California voters in next year’s election, look no further than this weekend.
On Sunday, a pack of looters robbed a jewelry store in a Hayward mall, smashing glass cases and absconding with the valuables into waiting cars. Also Sunday, Walnut Creek police recommended that businesses close early, citing intelligence that the 80 thieves who ransacked a Nordstrom on Saturday night could strike again. Officials labeled the Nordstrom robbery as “organized retail theft” and said it was possibly linked to a series of burglaries in San Francisco on Friday night.
In San Francisco, social media videos showed masked looters sprinting out of high-end stores in Union Square — including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s — with arms full of stolen merchandise worth thousands of dollars. Police arrested eight suspects and seized two cars and two guns, while Mayor London Breed announced plans to restrict vehicle access to Union Square to limit thieves escaping in getaway cars.
- John Chachas, whose family owns luxury retailer Gump’s in Union Square: “The mayor and her entire team should resign. You can’t really run a retail enterprise if you have to board up the windows five weeks before the critical Christmas selling season.”
Adding to the city’s woes, the San Francisco Chronicle published a glut of stories over the weekend that suggest residents are increasingly frustrated by its response to crime — and fearful for their own safety. One resident’s garage was broken into nine times in two days; video surveillance footage showed the thief wandering around leisurely, as if “he had no fear of getting caught.” And San Francisco’s martial arts academies, locksmiths and home-security companies are seeing a huge increase in demand.
- Nestor Guardado, shop manager at Lock World: “People are freaking out.”
- Danny Zelig, CEO of self-defense company Tactica Krav Maga Institute: “There has been a big shift. People are coming here to literally defend themselves,” instead of to work out.
Meanwhile, a group of children, teachers and parents from the Tenderloin hand-delivered a letter to Breed’s secretary, calling on the mayor to “put an end” to neighborhood conditions that include an open-air fentanyl market, frequent gun violence and attempts to rob kids as young as 9. One of the city’s proposed solutions: opening a supervised drug injection site.
Adding to the spate of crime headlines, on Saturday a stray bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Pasadena boy playing video games in his bedroom.
- Neighbor Stewart Baynes: “We heard the sirens and knew that it was another shooting. It’s getting to be so damn ridiculous out here.”
The flurry of shoplifting and shootings could pose challenges for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — a progressive prosecutor who’s facing a recall election in June and is being blamed for store closures — and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, whose controversial policies are the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine deep dive and driving a second attempt to recall him. The trends could also prove consequential in the 2022 elections, when voters will choose California’s next top cop.
The burglaries are yet another setback for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic and plug persistent staffing shortages. Although the Golden State’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in October as the state added 96,800 jobs, according to the Employment Development Department, California is still tied with Nevada for the highest jobless rate in the nation.