A recent spate of smash-and-grab robberies in major California cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles suggests that law enforcement policies in the state are falling short, according to several business associations.
“It’s a real problem,” John Kabateck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Epoch Times.
Aside from targeting brick-and-mortar stores in big cities, thieves are robbing people’s front porches of the products bought online and delivered to their doors, which becomes an even bigger risk during the holidays.
“We’re seeing these porch pirate thefts at people’s homes, so it’s big business, it’s main street, it’s Wall Street, but it’s also on our streets anywhere, and that needs to change,” Kabateck said.
While thieves are directly responsible for their crimes, some of the blame falls on the shoulders of political leaders, Kabateck suggested. Mayhem in the streets affects people’s economic security, public safety, and faith in the criminal justice system.
“We have seen a culture in California amongst our leaders, unfortunately, that has been more embracing and befriending the bad guys, and the wrongdoers and really demonizing our law enforcement,” he said.
Justice reform shouldn’t mean there are no consequences for criminals, he suggested.
“They should be held accountable,” Kabateck said.
The California Chamber of Commerce stated in an email to The Epoch Times that it supports an increase in law enforcement activities to address organized thefts and robberies.
“What California retailers and their customers are experiencing is heartbreaking, especially during the busy holiday shopping season. Not only are these organized crimes hurting retailers, [but] they are creating fear and jeopardizing the safety of shoppers and retail workers. CalChamber supports stepped-up efforts by law enforcement to deter and punish these brazen criminals,” the email said.
Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association (CRA) described the recent smash-and-grab robberies as “domestic terrorism.”
“I wouldn’t even characterize that as organized crime. That was domestic terrorism,” Michelin told KTXL Fox40 Sacramento.
She urged retailers, law enforcement and local and state leaders to work together to find solutions to the spike in organized retail theft, including strengthening laws against these crimes.
The CRA has called on the state’s Organized Retail Crime Task Forces, relaunched in July, to do something about the escalating crisis.
“Some of these solutions may be uncomfortable. We’re going to have those uncomfortable conversations and have a look at some of the laws on the books, obviously, they aren’t working,” she told KTXL Fox40. “My fear is that we will continue to see these types of brazen criminal activities happening across the state of California.”
Michelin suggested more must be done to punish thieves and to deter would-be criminals.
“I think we’re seeing more and more use of social media that can coordinate these brazen crimes,” Michelin told the Mercury News. “In addition, we’re seeing more and more of these products showing up on online marketplaces.”
San Francisco and Oakland suffer the second-highest amounts of losses to organized retail crime in the country—about $3.6 billion—which also means approximately $275 million in lost sales tax revenue to local municipalities and the state, she told Mercury News.
In one way or another, all Americans will end up covering the cost of these crimes through higher prices at the cash register or at digital checkout stand, Kabateck said.
“The customer suffers, the small business owner clearly suffers, the employees suffer … and then at the end of the day our communities suffer. And I say that because a good number of small business tax dollars go to fund our schools, our hospitals, fixing our streets, and so many other services,” he said.
Kabateck urged Californians to hold politicians responsible for the mayhem in 2022.
After nearly two years of trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, most business owners are grappling with lost revenue, inflation, labor shortages and the supply-chain crisis.
Most small business owners—already struggling to stay afloat with lost revenue, inflation and labor shortages and supply-chain chaos—are now facing this “crime tsunami … that’s making its way into shore,” he said.
“They’re still trying to get people to come into the workplace. They’re trying to get things onto their shelves because of the port congestion and supply chain disruption. They have so many other things on their minds right now just to keep their lights on and pay their bills that they haven’t really seen the full effect of the crime,” Kabateck said.