SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — It seems as if almost every city in the Bay Area is plagued by the surge in organized retail crime. One of the problems is those who commit petty theft are arrested and often back on the street on the same day — ready to steal again.
KRON4 looks at how this happened just last week and how those fighting crime are dealing with it.
“We were able to arrest two of those suspects and recover over $150,000 of stolen merchandise,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott in reference to last Thursday’s Dior store burglary.
When Scott announced the arrest of two people in connection with the October 12 smash-and-grab burglary at the Union Square Dior store, one of those two was later identified as 23-year-old Ahjanae Woods. If that name sounds familiar, it should.
Just two days before the Oct. 10 Dior burglary, she was arrested for shoplifting. She was one of 11 arrested by police in a theft suppression sting at Pleasant Hill Shopping Center.
“It is frustrating to know that when an arrest is made, the person is still doing it and it’s the repeat offenders that we’re trying to target,” said Pleasant Hill Police Chief Scott Vermillion.
Vermillion says before voters approved Prop 47 back in 2014, repeat offenders even those who commit petty theft or shoplifting could face felonies and serious time behind bars. These days, he says, those who are arrested for petty theft, even repeat offenders are typically cited, given a court date and released.
“We are struggling right now to make sure that we can impose actual consequences for those who are committing these acts,” said SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
Jenkins has made retail theft one of her priorities. The smash-and-grab at Dior is not petty theft, and she was able to charge Woods and another suspect with commercial burglary, grand theft, organized retail theft and conspiracy. Both are being held without bail.
She says with laws as they are prosecutors are having to change the way they charge organized retail theft so judges not only see the items taken but the conduct in doing it.
“This conduct is not simply going in and taking something and walking out. It often involves violence, which can elevate the conduct to a robbery,” Jenkins said. “It involves things like cars being driven through the front doors of stores, again, more dangerous and elevated criminal conduct that we can use as a basis to seek detention while the case is open but also to add additional charges. That allows us to impose more serious consequences.”
These retail sting operations seem to be increasing and leading to more arrests. With the holidays approaching, law enforcement agencies say they plan to do more of it.