Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said she didn’t believe the reports of mass looting and smash-and-grab robberies that have been reported up and down the west coast in recent weeks.
“We have to talk about specifics because, for example, we’re actually seeing a lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Times. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s office later claimed the congresswoman was referring to was a series of news reports earlier this year surrounding announcements that big chains were shutting down a number of Bay Area stores because of skyrocketing crime.
The smash-and-grab robberies that have swept from the top to bottom of California in recent weeks appeared to have eluded the progressive lawmaker.
About 80 people wearing ski masks and carrying crowbars and other weapons blocked the street with car in front of Nordstrom in the San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek the Saturday night before Thanksgiving and then stormed the department store for a mass looting.
Police said that the flash-mob style looting in the Broadway Plaza store was over and done with in less than a minute, NBC News reported.
A spokesperson for the Walnut Creek police said that two Nordstrom employees were punched and kicked by the looters, and a third worker was pepper-sprayed.
Chaotic videos showed masked thieves rushing from vehicles into stores and coming back with armloads of stolen booty.
#Breaking About 25 cars just blocked the street and rushed into the Walnut Creek Nordstrom making off with goods before getting in cars snd speeding away. At least two people arrested at gunpoint. pic.twitter.com/AG3R94M9L3
— Jodi Hernandez (@JodiHernandezTV) November 21, 2021
The same sort of flash-mob style looting done to several high-end retailers in San Francisco the same weekend prompted San Francisco Mayor London Breed to announce the closure of the streets around the city’s famous Union Square shopping district at the height of the holiday shopping season.
The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) said it began responding to reports of vandalism and looting at 12 Union Square businesses at about 8:10 p.m. on Nov. 19, SFGate reported.
SFPD said thieves smashed windows and left shattered piles of glass all over sidewalks as they trashed and looted Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Bloomingdale’s, Yves Saint Laurent, and several other high-end retail shops.
— Richie Greenberg (@richieSF2016) November 20, 2021
Even the progressive governor of California has acknowledged that there is a big problem, FOX News reported.
California Governor Gavin Newsom called on mayors to “step up” and hold criminals accountable.
Newsom also said he had increased the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) presence in areas near shopping destinations, according to FOX News.
“If people are breaking in, people stealing your property, they need to be arrested. Police need to arrest them. Prosecutors need to prosecute them. Judges need to hold people accountable for breaking the law,” Newsom said. “These are not victimless crimes, and I have no empathy for these criminal elements.”
Law enforcement leaders in California have pointed the blame for the increase in retail thefts on the passage of Proposition 47, which made thefts of less than $950 a misdemeanor, FOX News reported.
“San Francisco voters were lied to by the ACLU,” San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya explained. “Voters were told that prosecuting thieves was really a racist attack on people of color whose only real crime was poverty. So Proposition 47, the so-called Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, lowered felonies to misdemeanors for theft of goods valued at $950 dollars or less.”
“Talk about rolling out the red carpet for criminals, these smash-and-grab thieves aren’t stealing groceries to feed their families, they are ransacking and clearing out high-end stores to sell those goods to the highest bidder to fuel their criminal behavior or their drug habits,” Montoya told FOX News.
It would not be the first time that Ocasio-Cortez tried to categorize retail theft as starving Americans trying to feed their families instead of acknowledging a problem with a surge in crime.
“Do we think this has to do with the fact that… people are at a level of economic desperation that we have not seen?” the congresswoman asked during a virtual town hall on her Facebook page in July of 2020.
She said the rise in theft could be due to the fact some people hadn’t yet received stimulus checks.
“They’re put in a position where they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
AOC on increased NYC crime: "Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren't paying their rent & are scared to pay their rent & so they go out & they need to feed their child & they don't have money so… they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry." pic.twitter.com/oHSTWWJZ6a
— The Hill (@thehill) July 12, 2020
But the smash-and-grab thieves in San Francisco and Los Angeles were stealing designer purses and watches, not food.
And Walgreens told The Washington Times on Dec. 1 that “organized retail crime is one of the top challenges” that the retail giant faced.
The drugstore chain said the problem “has evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online.”