Dozens of San Francisco area stores, pharmacies hit by mobs of smash-and-grab looters: 'Hurts us all'

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Mobs of thieves ransacked at least two dozen San Francisco area businesses over the weekend, as smash and grab incidents rage in the Bay Area. 

“At least two dozen businesses were impacted,” Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told CBS SF. “Roving caravans of vehicles, targeting cannabis operations, retail shops, pharmacies, throughout the city of Oakland.”

The mobs of thieves hit a handful of pharmacies and marijuana dispensaries in Oakland, including the Wellspring pharmacy that released surveillance video of the scene to the media. Police added that the mobs in Oakland fired 175 shots during the incidents, forcing officers to pull back to safe locations, The Mercury News reported. 

A local Oakland man battling cancer also tried to visit a Walgreens on Sunday only to find it closed after a robbery. 

“I’ve got cancer,” David Massey said. “So I’m trying to get certain medications filled and they tell you to go to another Walgreens.”

The crimes also extended to San Jose, about 50 miles from San Francisco, where at least four people stole $40,000 from a Lululemon in an incident described by police as “organized robbery.”

“People need to be alert,” San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo told The Mercury News. “We’re coming into the busy holiday shopping season. We can’t be everywhere at the same time. We do need citizens’ help; when they see suspicious activity occurring, please let us know, especially at the malls.”

Walnut Creek Police Chief Jamie Knox has meanwhile reached out to the FBI, the California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Marshals Service in preparation for any potential similar incidents. 

“No city can be prepared for one day, with no notice, 80 people committing an organized theft within one minute,” Walnut Creek mayor Kevin Wilk said of the Nordstrom robbery.

The incidents are also alarming local security experts, who are pointing to California’s laws that are intended to reduce costs of incarceration as to why there is an increase in such crimes. Shoplifting charges regarding the theft of $950 or less were lowered from felonies to misdemeanors under Proposition 47 in 2014. Stores also often have no-chase policies of shoplifters.

“I think what happens now is there’s no accountability for it anymore, and the liability for the stores if they try to apprehend these guys. They just stand by and watch,” Steve Reed, a retired police officer and the former head of security at Arden Fair Mall, told ABC 10 this week. 

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