San Jose mayor, law enforcement address recent string of retail robberies
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks about a recent string of retail robberies outside Oakridge Mall. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    Facing a spate of organized retail thefts and robberies over the weekend, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and local enforcement are looking for ways to beef up security during the holidays—including use of surveillance technology.

    “I’m releasing a proposal with colleagues for investment in automated license plate readers and other surveillance tech that will assist in the arrest and apprehension, as well as deterrence, of several organized crime rings engaged in burglaries and robberies we’ve all read about,” Liccardo said Wednesday outside Oakridge Mall.

    The proposal will go before the San Jose City Council next week for consideration.

    Regional retailers are reeling from a string of organized thefts and robberies that happened over the weekend, when large groups of people hit department stores, cannabis dispensaries, a jewelry shop and high-end clothing stores.

    In San Jose, thieves struck a Lululemon store in Santana Row Sunday night, stealing more than $40,000 in merchandise. At the same time, another group hit the Westfield Valley Fair mall and took $7,000 worth of items from a sunglasses store, according to the San Jose Police Department. Two people also attempted to rob Macy’s at Valley Fair last night. Police have arrested two suspects in the case.

    Officials said the recent string of thefts and robberies are coordinated and planned by organized crime rings.

    “The San Jose Police Department has already made arrests in these retail robberies… and there are more arrests that are coming,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Prosecutors in my office have already begun charging and will charge to the fullest extent of law.”

    Rosen also spoke of concerns of copycat thieves in light of recent robberies.

    “I do think these are crimes of opportunity, things criminals think of as soft targets,” he said. “We’re trying to set the message straight that there are consequences for doing this and you’ll spend a lot of time behind bars.”

    Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said SJPD has already made arrests in a recent string of retail robberies. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    Big box stores in San Jose have long dealt with shoplifting, an issue that started to run rampant after voters approved Prop. 47 in 2014. The law brings shoplifting from a felony to a misdemeanor for all thefts less than $950. Many stores have since adopted policies prohibiting employees from pursuing shoplifters to avoid endangering customers and employees.

    Liccardo clarified that the penalties for robbery are much more serious, as that is defined as using force or threat of using force.

    In response to the rash of retail thefts in the Bay Area, Gov. Gavin Newsom promised Monday the state’s budget next year will include substantial funding for cities to address retail theft and called for local mayors to “step up” in addressing the issue.

    Bay Area prosecutors also announced an alliance this week to combat the series of organized retail crimes. The alliance includes San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, San Joaquin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The alliance plans to pool investigative tools together and share information among all jurisdictions.

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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