Psaki says root cause of retail organized crime is COVID-19 pandemic
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the root cause of the surge in organized retail crime was the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the Biden administration was working with a certain number of communities across the country to “crack down” on crime in these neighborhoods.
In recent weeks, smash-and-grab looters have targeted stores across the country, stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise from retailers in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York and Minneapolis.
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Psaki, during a White House press briefing on Thursday, said President Biden called for increased funding to support local police departments and “to ensure that local communities work in partnership to crack down on the crime and all the dangers they see in their communities. “
“We have also worked with a range of communities across the country on strike forces,” Psaki continued, adding that the administration “continues to implement this from the Ministry of Justice.”
“But the president is absolutely convinced that community police forces can have a significant instrumental effect in helping to keep communities safe.”
Psaki said guns and the COVID-19 pandemic were the “root” causes of the surge in organized theft in retail.
“One of the root causes of crime in communities is guns and gun violence, and we have seen it statistically across the country,” Psaki said, adding that a “root cause in many communities is the pandemic “.
A White House official told Fox News on Thursday that the administration was monitoring reports of looting and said officials had seen “some of the disturbing videos documenting these thefts.”
“This type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable, and we are using all the resources at our disposal to support local authorities and crack down on organized theft in retail businesses,” the official said.
The official added that the Department of Justice, FBI and federal law enforcement have been in contact with jurisdictions where this occurred to offer assistance in investigations.
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In Los Angeles, the official said, the FBI “is providing assistance to a multi-jurisdictional task force led by the LAPD and [the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department] to target the criminal groups that are behind many of these incidents. “
In addition to these measures, the president also granted communities historic funding levels through the bailout to put more cops on the job for effective and accountable community policing, as well as to invest in community programs. which have been proven to reduce crime, âhe added. one official said.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department recently announced that San Francisco and Los Angeles – where a number of high-profile retail thefts have taken place – will secure funding to hire 50 and 20 additional police officers, respectively, under the program. $ 140 million COPS that the president put in place. defended, the official said.
“These are all measures that we know will reduce crime and make our communities, neighborhoods and stores safer for all of us,” the official said.
The White House push comes as armed robberies have plagued cities across the country in an incident killing a California security guard as he tried to protect a news team reporting the incidents. crimes. Retired San Jose Police Officer Kevin Nishita was shot and killed in an armed robbery.
A group of five suspects stole around $ 25,000 in expensive handbags from a Nordstrom store in Westfield Topanga Mall in Los Angeles on the eve of Thanksgiving. While a large group also entered a Bottega Veneta in Los Angeles’ Beverly Grove neighborhood on Friday and used a chemical agent against a person who attempted to stop them as they stole high-end merchandise.
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In Monterey, California, a group of about four people stole about $ 30,000 worth of sunglasses from a Sunglass Hut. In San Francisco, thieves between the ages of 14 and 18 took more than $ 20,000 in merchandise from an Apple store in broad daylight on Wednesday.
The crimes have also spread to other parts of the country, including Chicago, where police say thieves threw a cinder block at a Canada Goose store between midnight and 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and took goods. Three more smash-and-grabs have been reported in the city, with thieves targeting a Foot Locker, a North Face store and a mobile phone store.
In suburban Minneapolis last Friday night, a large group of at least 30 people targeted a Best Buy in Burnsville, while a group of 10 to 12 people, including minors, targeted another Best Buy in Maplewood.
Crowds of thieves ransacked at least two dozen businesses in the San Francisco area over the weekend, Oakland Police said, noting that cannabis operations, retail stores and drugstores were being targeted.
The crimes also spread to San Jose, about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, where at least four people stole $ 40,000 from a Lululemon last week in an incident described by police as ” organized theft “.
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The National Retail Federation has reported an increase in shoplifting and armed robbery, both of which are linked to organized retail crime. The NRF said 69% of retailers reported an increase in retail organized crime in 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement, changes to sentencing guidelines and the growth of markets in line for increasing ORC activity.
The NRF said 65% of those polled reported an increase in violence in these incidents, with 37% saying the gangs involved in the activities were “much more aggressive than in the past.”
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The NRF reported that 78% of retailers felt that a federal organized retail crime law would “effectively combat these problems” in part because the problem is multi-jurisdictional that crosses state borders.
The NRF has indicated that the cities most affected by organized retail crime are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Miami in the top five, followed by Houston, Atlanta, Sacramento, Baltimore, Las Vegas and Seattle. .
Fox News’ Peter Doocy, Talia Kaplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.