8 month multi-agency operation cracks down on retail theft in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Investigators seized luxury handbags, belts, cell phones, ear buds, over the counter meds and even champagne during "Operation Wrecking Ball."

They identified $750,000 in stolen property, $300,000 of which they've recovered, including $16,000 in cash and 46 cell phones.

The eight-month-long multi-agency fencing investigation led to a dozen arrests along with arrest warrants for 28 more fugitives.

"These people are ambush stealing large quantities of property from the retail partners all over the Bay Area," said San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Frank Carrubba.

Thieves are stealing and then selling the stolen items.

"As far East as Texas, as far north as Seattle and as far south as Los Angeles," said SFPD Chief William Scott.

"They're using conduits like eBay, they're using flea markets like Laney College in Oakland," said Carrubba.

Which is why the California Highway Patrol is a critical partner in the operation.

California Assembly Bill 1065, signed in September, was designed to combat retail theft throughout California.

Two weeks ago, on Dec. 5, 80 law enforcement officers conducted seven search warrants in San Francisco and one in Daly City. The search warrants were at a home, a storage facililty and a business.

"It doesn't matter where you try to hide," said Chief Scott.

Union Square retailers in San Francisco have been hit particularly hard.

"Some of our larger department stores have stuff stolen three times a day," said Karin Flood, Executive Director of the Union Square Business Improvement District.

"It's also happening at night where our windows are getting broken into," said Flood.

Law enforcement officials shared before and after pictures at UN Plaza/7th and Market. The before shows people buying and selling stolen merchandise.

The day after the operation the space was clear of people and stolen merchandise.
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