SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Highway Patrol announced Tuesday that it's immediately increasing patrols on freeways near major shopping centers throughout California.
The agency has an Organized Retail Crime Task Force that helps local police departments investigate crimes, make arrests and recover stolen merchandise.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom called for the CHP to conduct saturation patrols in heavily trafficked shopping centers throughout the holiday season after large-scale thefts in San Francisco, Walnut Creek and San Jose in recent days.
Law enforcement officials believe the string of robberies may be connected as part of a larger retail crime ring.
At least three people allegedly involved in the Saturday night robbery of a Walnut Creek Nordstrom store have already been arrested. According to the Walnut Creek Police Department, as much as $200,000 of merchandise was stolen from the store by as many as 80 masked looters.
"We want real accountability," Newsom said Monday at a briefing in San Francisco. "We want people prosecuted and we want people to feel safe this holiday season."
Newsom also said he plans to include a funding increase in his 2022-2023 state budget proposal for combatting retail theft.
The state has already been coordinating with law enforcement officials as well as the mayors of the state's biggest cities for several months via the CHP's Organized Retail Crime Task Forces.
Since their original inception, the task forces in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties have recovered $18.9 million in stolen merchandise and arrested 240 people in connection with retail theft.
"We are going to be more aggressive still in this space to help support cities and the prosecution of folks," Newsom said. "I have no sympathy, no empathy whatsoever for people smashing and grabbing, stealing people's items, creating havoc and terror on our streets ... they must be held to account."