Videos show scope of Bay Area's weekend of organized retail robberies

ByAmy Hollyfield, Lyanne Melendez, Laura Anthony, J.R. Stone, and Tim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Videos show scope of Bay Area's weekend of organized retail thefts
Groups of thieves ransacked stores across the Bay Area over the weekend, robbing merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars.Union Square looks welcoming and festive Monday morning but there is still evidence that weekend looting spree happened here.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Groups of thieves ransacked stores across the Bay Area over the past week, robbing merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars. Retailers and shoppers are on edge, calling for answers.

SF workers, retailers worry smash-and-grab thieves will strike again

Union Square looks welcoming and festive this morning but there is still evidence that something happened here. Louis Vuitton is still boarded up and closed. Police have a presence here. This is what the Monday after a looting spree looks like.

Workers here know what happened and feel nervous it could happen again.

"A little bit scared, I am a security guard so it just makes it a little bit worse, got to be a little more safe because of that," said Rolando Rueda who works nearby.

Video posted on social media shows a swarm of people running from the Louis Vuitton store Friday night with merchandise in their arms. They jump into waiting cars and escape.

WATCH: Video shows decimated San Francisco Louis Vuitton store after massive smash-and-grab robbery

Multiple suspects have been arrested after a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco was hit by thieves.

"I was happy I was off that day but sad to see it Friday night," Rueda said. "Just because I've lived in San Francisco all my life, 20 years, I didn't want to believe it, just to see it's just crazy," Rueda said.

"I have been here for 45 years, it's the mayor and the board of supervisors that need to be changed."

This business owner- who did not want to give his last name or the name of his store- is fed up with what he sees happening here.

"They need to clean up the shopping district. It's the economic heartbeat of the city."

RELATED: 'Unacceptable': Mayor Breed says changes will be coming to SF after brazen Union Square robbery

He isn't worried about his safety on this sunny Monday.

"Because I will be out of here before it's dark," he said.

But some who are here after dark - are worried it will happen again.

"Christmas time there's going to be a lot more people doing this so I've got to stay on my ten toes," Rueda said.

Small business owners in Walnut Creek struggle to afford private security

For many businesses in downtown Walnut Creek, the start of the holiday shopping season has been anything but peaceful.

"What we're hearing is major concern," said Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce president, Bob Linscheid.

Linscheid says following Saturday's events, major retailers in the city are looking to hire more private security.

But not every business in Walnut Creek can afford to do that on their own.

RELATED: Brazen flash mob-style robbery of Walnut Creek Nordstrom sparks outrage from city leaders

New security measures are in place in one East Bay city, a day after a brazen crime which can only be described as a flash mob robbery.

Lynn Nice, the owner of Labels Luxury Consignment, says she's had to board up her store three times in the last year-and-a-half.

Nice says she's working with other small businesses in the area to possibly pull their resources to hire security on their own.

Walnut Creek Mayor, Kevin Wilk, tells me, the city has indeed stepped up its police presence in the downtown area, in addition to blocking off certain streets.

Wilk says the city is also working to ensure the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office prosecutes those involved.

RELATED: More than $50K in merchandise stolen from Lululemon in Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair Mall

But it's not just a local response Walnut Creek officials are looking for. They say they want to work with cities and counties around the Bay Area to find a solution.

Saturday's robbery is one of several that hit the Bay Area this weekend.

And Wilk says in order to make coordinated attacks like this stop, it's going to take everyone working together.

"This has to stop. And we need to work with all the cities, and all the counties and all the sheriff's departments, and work statewide and nationally to ensure that the Bay Area is not going to take this," Wilk said.

Newsom: 'Real accountability' for organized theft rings

Governor Gavin Newsom was in San Francisco Monday at vaccination site in the Mission district. There he addressed this weekend's series of retail robberies.

The governor's office acknowledged meeting with retailers over the weekend. Some have boarded up the windows and asked to see a larger police presence.

"That's why today you will see an increase presence in and around large retail centers and shopping malls all throughout the Bay," said Governor Gavin Newsom.

Moving forward, the governor promised a significant increase in new year's state budget to address this type of crime. "Exponentially larger than what we've gone in the past because we cannot allow this to continue, period, full stop," the governor added.

WATCH: Governor Newsom addresses rash of thefts in Bay Area

"We have been working with cities up and down the state including San Francisco, Walnut Creek and others that were impacted over this weekend."

OPD chief struggles with city's crime spree with shrinking police force

Once again, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong is standing before the public, pleading for help in trying to solve the latest crime spree, while also trying to reconcile what his shrinking police force can and can't do to stop it.

The mayhem was almost nonstop in Oakland this past weekend.

Saturday night, a 17-year-old boy was gunned down in East Oakland.

Earlier, police shot and killed a carjacking suspect in the Rockridge area after a brief chase. Officers say the suspect tried to ram their patrol cars.

RELATED: Oakland police chief laments violence in his city

With his city mired in violence, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong sat down with ABC7 News to discuss the unprecedented firepower on the streets.

On Saturday and Sunday night, there were also a series of brazen commercial burglaries which include several cannabis businesses. In one case, would-be robbers exchanged gunfire with security guards.

While that was happening, as many as 500 cars gathered for a massive illegal sideshow near 90th Avenue and MacArthur.

And, at least two Oakland pharmacies, the CVS at Redwood Mall and the Walgreens on High Street had their front windows shattered and thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen.

While Oakland police did make a few arrests, for the most part, those who committed so many crimes this past weekend are still out there.

Oakland city Council members respond to police chief's criticism after violent weekend

Oakland's police chief is calling on city leaders to act after an extremely violent weekend.

The chief says they dealt with "roving robbery caravans" like many other cities, but also shootings and sideshows.

"I'm asking council members to step up!"

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong spoke out Monday after a weekend that not only included what he is calling "roving robbery caravans" targeting retail stores, pharmacies, and dispensaries; but also shootings and sideshows - that have been seen for much of the year.

"I need help from the leaders of this city. Amidst 124 homicides, there hasn't been one call for an emergency meeting to discuss gun violence in the city of Oakland," said Chief Armstrong.

City council members were quick to respond Monday night, saying that there is a special meeting scheduled for December 7 to discuss the violence. They also said that the violence seen is a major concern of theirs.

RELATED: Oakland city council members respond to police chief's criticism after violent weekend

"Absolutely we are all concerned and I can attest to that from all council members, including the mayor as well, too," said councilmember Sheng Thao.

Thao along with council member Dan Kalb are in support of getting the Ceasefire program back to where it was pre-pandemic.

Council member Rebecca Kaplan says the council has repeatedly pushed for more focus on gun violence and passed items to increase funding for tracing and cracking down on illegal guns.

They also say funding has been doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

"People think when we say violence prevention, it's all long-term, it's all years down the road, well some of it is and some of it can happen really quickly, including those interrupters," says Kalb.

Oakland's police department was stretched thin this past weekend. The chief says they responded to more than two dozen major crimes in a 10-hour period Saturday. ABC7 News insider Phil Matier says Chief Armstrong's words Monday, were bold.

"I can't remember the last time a police chief just said to City Hall 'you don't care.' That's what he was saying, crime was going up, we have problems, and we have yet to have one emergency meeting which is right on your doorstep the biggest problem we've had," says Matier.

"As a council, we have not stepped up," said council member Loren Taylor Monday. Taylor would like to see police given more resources. Thao and Kalb say filling open positions is key for the department.

"We have 737 funded positions and we only have 680 officers," said Thao.

"The police chief has the authority to hire officers laterally, who are already officers in other departments, within the budget which he has available to him to fill some of the gaps, it's not easy to do that, but he has the authority to do that," says Kalb.