SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced felony charges against 9 people in connection with the Union Square organized retail theft that happened Friday.
“Trust and safety are our core values in this city. [Friday night’s] organized crime in Union Square, Bayview District and beyond must never happen again,” he tweeted. “These crimes are happening around the Bay and across the country. I stand in partnership with our local, regional, state, and federal partners as we work together to do whatever it takes to keep you safe.”
The weekend robberies started in San Francisco Friday around 8 p.m., when packs of people broke into stores including Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s in the downtown area and in Union Square, a posh shopping district popular with tourists that was teeming with holiday shoppers.
Videos of the chaotic scene posted on social media by witnesses showed police officers dragging one suspect from a waiting car and people running with merchandise in their arms or dragging suitcases.
The flash mobs are usually organized by local people who recruit their crews and send them to steal specific merchandise requested by criminal organizations throughout the country, Dugan said.
Those who do the stealing get paid between $500 and $1,000 to take as much as they can and bring it back to organizers who ship it to other parts of the country.
“Crew bosses organize them, they’ll give him the crowbars, and in some cases even rent them cars, or provide them with escape routes or a list of products to actually go out and steal. It looks very chaotic but it’s actually very well organized,” Dugan said.
Since Friday night’s incidents of retail theft, San Francisco announced it will be limiting car access in Union Square. Police officers continue to patrol the area and will do so “for the foreseeable future,” according to San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday addressed the recent smash-and-grabs across the Bay Area, saying there is no empathy or sympathy for the organized crimes being carried out.
“They’re not just stealing people’s products and impacting their livelihoods, they’re stealing a sense of place and confidence,” Newsom said.
Newsom added that his office met with retailers over the weekend who asked for more police patrols.
“You will see substantially more starting today, in and around areas that are highly trafficked and coming into the holiday season Black Friday in shopping malls,” he told reporters Monday at an event in San Francisco.
He said the California Highway Patrol immediately stepped up patrols along nearby highway corridors following the thefts this weekend and asked local officials how they could help.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.