U.S. retailers have experienced a rash of highly orchestrated and alarming smash-and-grab thefts recently, notably in California’s Bay Area and Chicago.

Around 80 looters flooded a Nordstrom location in Walnut Creek, CA, on Saturday, stealing armfuls of merchandise and attacking employees with a flurry of punches, kicks and pepper spray, according to NBC News. The raid took only one minute. Looters parked their cars to block the street before carrying out the smash-and-grab.

The previous day an even more widespread episode of mob looting and vandalism struck San Francisco’s Union Square neighborhood, according to ABC News. Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s numbered among the 10 retailers targeted in that wave of smash-and-grabs.

Malls in Hayward and San Jose were struck on Sunday by mobs of hammer-wielding looters who ransacked a jewelry store and a Lululemon location, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Jim Dudley, a lecturer at San Francisco State University’s department of criminal justice studies, told the Chronicle that the raids did not appear to be politically motivated and confirmed that there did seem to be an uptick in smash-and-grab style theft occurring.

Further east, the Neiman Marcus store in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile luxury shopping district was robbed on Friday by three carloads of people, according to the Chicago Tribune. Another store had its window broken.

Both the Bay Area and Chicago have experienced significant increases in retail crime over the past year.

The Magnificent Mile has seen such a high rate of theft that in October police issued a formal warning, according to CBS Chicago. Some retail tenants have vacated the area, and a stretch of North Michigan Avenue remains vacant.

Some retailers in San Francisco had taken steps to try to reduce the impact of organized retail crime. Walgreens, for instance, announced in October the closure of five San Francisco stores frequently targeted by organized theft rings, according to The New York Times.

In 2020 the National Retail Federation (NRF) ranked these cities among the worst for retail crime along with Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.


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