White House official says theft is ‘absolutely not acceptable’

Jen Psaki, White House press Secretary, said that Thursday’s spike in organized retail criminal activity was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She stated that the Biden administration has been working with many communities in the country 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 are working in partnership to combat crime and other dangers they see within their communities.”

“We’ve also collaborated with a variety of communities across the nation on strike forces,” Psaki said, adding that the administration “continues to implement that from Department of Justice.”

“But the president is certain that community police officers can be an important instrumental force in keeping communities safe.

Psaki 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.

Fox News reported that a White House official said Thursday that the administration was monitoring looting reports and that officials had seen some of the “disturbing videos” documenting the thefts.

The official stated that “this kind of conduct is completely unacceptable” and 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.

According to the official, Los Angeles is being assisted by the FBI to assist a multi-jurisdictional taskforce led by LAPD [the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department] in pursuing criminal groups that are behind many of these incidents.

The official stated that in addition to these steps, the president had also provided historic funding levels through the Rescue Plan to communities to increase the number of cops on the streets for effective, accountable community policing and to invest in programs proven to reduce crime.

The Department of Justice recently announced that San Francisco and Los Angeles, where there have been a lot of high-profile retail thefts, will receive funding through the $140million COPS program.

The official stated that “these are all steps we know will reduce crime and make our neighborhoods, our shops and our communities safer for all of you.”

The White House push comes amid a spate of smash-and-grab robberies in cities across the country. One incident left a California security officer dead while trying to protect a news crew reporting on the crimes. Kevin Nishita, a retired San Jose police officer was shot and killed in an armed robbery.

Five suspects robbed $25,000 worth of purses from the Nordstrom store at Westfield Topanga in Los Angeles, just before Thanksgiving. A large group of thieves also entered Bottega Veneta, Los Angeles’ Beverly Grove section, on Friday. They used chemical agents against one person trying to stop them from stealing high-end merchandise.

A group of four thieves stole sunglasses worth $30,000 from a Sunglass Hut in Monterey, California. Between the ages 14-18, two thieves stole more than $20,000 worth of merchandise from an Apple store on Wednesday in San Francisco.

The crime has also spread to other parts of the country, such as Chicago where thieves stole merchandise and threw a brick through a Canada Goose store from midnight to 6 a.m. Thanksgiving. The city saw three other smash-and grabs, where thieves targeted a Foot Locker and a North Face shop, as well as a cell phone company.

A large group of at most 30 people attacked a Best Buy store in Burnsville last Friday night. Meanwhile, another Best Buy store in Maplewood was targeted by a group of 10-12 people including juveniles.

Oakland police reported that at least two dozen San Francisco area businesses were ransacked by mobs of thieves last weekend. They also noted that marijuana operations, retail shops, and pharmacies were all targeted.

The crime spree also reached San Jose, 50 miles southwest of San Francisco. There, at least four individuals stole $40,000 from Lululemon last Wednesday in an “organized robbery” incident, according to police.

According to the National Retail Federation, there was an increase in shopliftings and robberies. This is linked to organized retail criminality. According to the NRF, 69% of retailers reported an increase of organized retail crime in 2021. 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. 37% reported that gangs involved were “much more aggressive” than they were in the past.

According to the NRF, 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.

NRF reports that Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago are the most affected cities by organized retail crime. Next up, Houston, Atlanta and Sacramento are the top five. Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, and Baltimore are the next.