Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that the recent epidemic of “flash mob” thievery going on in California will inevitably spread around the country.
“This is something now that I really unfortunately think is going to spread,” Ramsey told CNN on Thursday, via Newsweek. “Right now it’s in California, but it will spread, there’s no question about it.”
Ramsey’s comments come after another theft took place Wednesday. Four individuals, believed to be between the ages of 14 and 18, stole $20,000 worth of merchandise from an Apple store in the Santa Rosa Plaza, about 50 miles from San Francisco, The Daily Wire reported. “In a brazen daytime burglary in front of customers and staff, the suspects grabbed over $20,000 worth of merchandise from the store and fled the area in an unknown vehicle,” Santa Rosa police said in a statement.
A mob of five also sacked a Nordstrom luxury outlet in Canoga Park, a town in the Los Angeles area, Wednesday evening. The looters, one of them wearing an orange wig, attacked a security guard with “some kind of chemical” and stole at least seven luxury handbags, The Daily Wire reported.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been the epicenter of the looting sprees in recent days. The Daily Wire reported that a mob of about 80 people attacked another Nordstrom outlet in Walnut Creek, about 30 minutes outside of San Francisco, pepper spraying an employee and physically assaulting two others. Three people were arrested in connection with the robberies, according to local news outlets.
The Walnut Creek robbery was one of three major incidents that took place last weekend. The Daily Wire reported that a mob of people, some of whom were armed with hammers, looted a jewelry store in the city of Hayward, about 35 miles from San Francisco, on Sunday evening. Another mob looted a Louis Vuitton outlet in San Francisco on Friday night, breaking windows and “emptied out” the store. Newsweek reported that a Burberry and Yves Saint Laurent outlet were also robbed last Friday.
Several factors are to blame for the looting spree. Local officials have blamed the spike on California’s Proposition 47, which lessened penalties for shoplifting and raised the threshold for felony shoplifting from $400 to $950. Law enforcement officials told the Daily Mail that the mobs are recruited for up to $1,000 to steal the goods and sell them over the internet.
Ramsey told CNN that he saw the same thing during his tenure as Philadelphia Police commissioner. Groups of up to 20 individuals, mostly young adults, would rush into stores like Macy’s and take what they could before fleeing.
“It was really, really difficult to get a handle on it,” said Ramsey.
“What we found was, one, it was being organized through social media. So one of the things we started doing is paying close attention to social media.”
Ramsey said that just as Philadelphia Police struggled to contain the outbreak of looting in their city, so too would the stores, and California police, struggle to stop further attacks.
“I don’t know what’s driving all this, but it is of concern and it will continue,” Ramsey said. “It is not going to stop anytime soon.”
“This is not shoplifting, this is something far worse than shoplifting,” Ramsey added. “So, there’s a lot that has to be done if we want to get a handle on it.”