Issues & Insights
San Francisco District Attorney's Office

California Needs To Stop Its Crime Spree Before It Goes National

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is apparently convinced that the shoplifting and smash-and-grab robberies in California are a myth. But they are real, perversely spectacular, and likely to spread across the country if they remain unchecked.

The retail heart of San Francisco, with its abundance of luxury shops, is usually overflowing with commerce at this time of the year. Instead, it’s become a “ghost town.”

“Widespread ‘flash mob’ looting turned Union Square – the city’s most fashionable shopping district – into an area resembling a blighted neighborhood in Detroit,” Michael Shellenberger writes in a recent New York Post op-ed. 

Much of the state “seems to have become a plunderers’ paradise,” says the Pacific Research Institute.

Thieves have moved on from shoplifting with large garbage bags at drug stores to violent smash-and-run raids on retailers, some of them during the middle of the day. Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, and other stores from San Francisco to Walnut Creek to San Jose, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills have been robbed by hammer- and crowbar-wielding mobs that have left a few fallen store employees in their wake.

Late last month, a security guard protecting a television news crew working on a story about an Oakland store that had been hit by thieves was shot while doing his job. Kevin Nishita, a former police officer, later died. He was gunned down when he tried to stop three men from stealing the crew’s camera. This didn’t happen under the cover of darkness but in the middle of the day.

Deniers say the crime data don’t show any increases in crime that are worth worrying about. But the numbers don’t tell the story as they should. San Francisco retailers, for instance, have been victimized so routinely that they simply decline to report all the incidents to police.

Californians have only themselves to blame. They passed Proposition 47 in 2014 by a 60%-40% margin. Among the measure’s provisions is a sort of decriminalization of some thefts. Members of the criminal class are well aware that Prop 47 allows them to steal as much as $950 worth of goods without being charged for a felony. That’s why some have been seen adding up their “takes” on calculators to be sure they don’t exceed the threshold, and will be busted for only a misdemeanor if arrested at all.

The bandits have also been emboldened by prosecutors who are reluctant to prosecute – Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, George Gascon in Los Angeles – and a statewide no-cash-bail policy for suspects who can’t afford the going rate. While in many cases the policy supports our system’s presumed-innocent principle, it also acts as a get-out-of-jail-free card, allowing repeat offenders to steal again.

Inspired by criminals’ success in California, thieves have hit stores in Chicago and Minneapolis. How long before every big city in the country is overwhelmed by similar crimes?

The potential is alarmingly high. Woke prosecutors in St. Louis, Chicago, and Philadelphia are treating crime much like Boudin and Gascon. All owe their positions, at least in part, to leftist billionaire George Soros, who helped finance their campaigns.

“The most prolific Democratic donor,” reports the Daily Mail, detailing a subject much of the U.S. press wants to bury, “has also been pumping money into a far-left effort to overhaul the criminal justice system by giving millions to a network of woke prosecutors in Democratic races.”

Soros has also reportedly funded the defund the police movement. 

We’re supposed to believe that all Soros and his beneficiaries want is to reform the criminal justice system. But it’s clear their true objective is to destabilize society, to foment “social agitation and change-for-change’s-sake.” Soros wants to remake the world in his image, and to do that, he must first tear down the institutions, customs, values, systems, and order that undergird the civilized and prosperous West.

Both Boudin, who once worked for the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and Gascon are targets of recall elections. San Francisco and Los Angeles voters might not know it, but saving the country from the run of crime that’s ruining their neighborhoods is in their hands. If they do their jobs, they will send a message to the voters elsewhere who are enduring the Soros district attorneys’ social experiments: Throw the bums out.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Perhaps they could help the situation if they amended the law to include sales tax in the $950 threshold.

    • Or perhaps make it cumulative, not per store per day. So robbing several stores of $950 in a day, week or month puts you in the felony or career criminal category. I bet judges and juries would go along with that interpretation, if a non-Soros law-and-order DA was willing to prosecute.

      Blame also the low moral quality of big city prosecuting personnel, law school grads who fear to speak out or rock the boat. Their overriding concern is collecting a fat monthly paycheck until such time as they reach the 20-year mark and can retire with 135% of their final monthly salary for life (via the lucrative California government pension system).

  • “stores from San Francisco to Walnut Creek to San Jose, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills have been robbed by hammer- and crowbar-wielding mobs…” -I&I

    In case you missed the local news, preparations for the next organized wave of sledgehammer and crowbar robbing and looting has begun. Several hundred crowbars and sledge hammers have been stolen from a Home Depot and several other SoCal hardware stores by masked gangs in 10-car caravans in recent days. The local news reporting is just the tip of the iceberg. The follow-up local news story was that all the suspects caught looting clothing and high-end stores were released from custody for varied reasons. But the sledge hammer and crowbar robbers in their 10-car caravans all made clean getaways. The sleazy mayors spun this as a victory, and were not challenged by reporters..

  • “How long before every big city in the country is overwhelmed by similar crimes?”

    Not every big city, just the Democrat-controlled ones (and in Democrat-controlled states). The disease will not spread to flyover country, where the 2A, castle doctrine and SYG are in full force. Storekeepers will arm themselves or hire armed security; they will kill the thieves. Legally armed patrons will assist if needed. All of them will have the law on their side. Any surviving thieves will be prosecuted for murder in the deaths of their cohorts.

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