February 29, 2024

US Retail Concern: Mob Attacks on Luxury Stores

In the United States, mass raids on consumer temples are on the rise. Even the California Retail Association talks about “domestic terrorism.”

Louis Vuitton stores, like this one in San Francisco’s Union Square, appear to be a favorite target for raids Photo: AP

Washington France Press agency | About 80 masked people break into a luxury store, loot the luxury section, and then escape minutes later in 25 cars. Sudden mob attacks, like the one in the town of Walnut Creek, California, have put retailers and police across the United States on alert as the holiday shopping season begins.

Brazen robberies are becoming more frequent, especially in San Francisco and the surrounding area as well as in the Chicago area. The day before the attack on the Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek last Saturday, 40 people simultaneously attacked the branch of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton in Union Square in San Francisco, quickly clearing shelves and driving off in their cars.

In Chicago, three Louis Vuitton stores were the target of mob attacks. In the suburb of Oak Brook, a gang of 14 members stole goods worth more than $100,000 (89,000 euros).

Retailers across the country fear imitators and are taking safety precautions. “The current level of organized retail theft is simply unacceptable,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said. “Businesses and customers should feel safe about their Christmas shopping.”

Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, typically marks the beginning of the hectic Christmas shopping season in the United States. The governor had already assigned a special unit from the California Highway Patrol to work with local authorities to combat mass thefts.

So far, without success, mob attacks are increasing: In Hayward near San Francisco, more than 30 robbers looted a jewelry store. Surveillance camera footage in the nearby city of Auckland showed more than 30 masked men entering a clothing store, removing racks of clothes and disappearing again in less than a minute.

“This is bold, this is radical.”

Flash mob thefts, also known as Flash Robs, are not a new phenomenon. But this year it has increased significantly. Most of all, the scale and speed of the attack on the Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek surprised and frightened many. “I can’t even call it organized crime, it was domestic terrorism.” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retail AssociationFox40 TV station in Sacramento.

Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore, sees no signs of increased shoplifting across the country. However, he suspects that videos of flash robberies circulating online may have inspired others to copy them. “This is bold, this is radical,” he says.

It remains unclear whether there are links between the numerous mass thefts and how those involved communicate, coordinate and resell stolen goods. So far, only three of the approximately 80 people involved in the attack in Walnut Creek have been arrested. Nine people have been charged in connection with the looting that occurred in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Criminologist Ross fears that the predatory mob will never be fully disbanded. He adds that the number of murders and violent crimes in the United States has increased, and that the police have reached their limits. If dozens of people steal tons of goods, “the police will not be able to pursue them anymore.”

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