The crime was part of a wave of audacious “smash and grab” attacks that hit the Golden State over the past week, with massive bands of criminals hitting shops in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
On 20 November as many as 80 people charged into a Nordstrom branch in the Bay Area suburb of Walnut Creek in a ‘flash mob’, using pepper spray against employees while 25 cars blocked the street outside.
The Santa Rosa thieves struck at around 11.36am on the day before Thanksgiving, wearing face masks and gathering up armfuls of phones.
“In a brazen daytime burglary in front of customers and staff, the suspects grabbed over $20,000 worth of merchandise from the store and fled the area in an unknown vehicle,” the Santa Rosa Police Department said.
It described the suspects as four young Black men aged between 14 and 18. Anyone with information about the theft should call the department’s property crimes squad on 707-543-3575, citing case number 21-13043, officials said.
That same evening, five robbers rushed into a Nordstrom in Canoga Park, Los Angeles and stole seven or eight expensive purses. Police said one thief was wearing an orange wig.
Another Nordstrom outlet, in a swank outdoor shopping centre called The Grove, was ransacked on Monday by about 20 people who smashed their way in through the display windows with a sledgehammer.
In the Bay Area on Sunday, a group of 40 to 50 people broke open glass display cases at a jeweller’s shop in Hayward, near San Jose, while other thieves pillaged a Lululemon shop and a sunglasses store for about $50,000 (£37,470) in merchandise.
Police said many of the thefts are the work of organised robbery rings that hire freelancers for each job, sometimes providing crowbars and getaway cars. Some gangs are asked to steal specific items that are in demand among black market vendors, shipping them out of state to be sold online.
Opponents of California’s ruling Democrats have blamed the state’s relaxation of sentencing laws, although many such initiatives involved less serious thefts.
In 2014, Californians voted in a referendum to approve Proposition 47, which raised the threshold for felony theft from $500 (£375) to $950 (£712).
The state’s governor Gavin Newsom has vowed to take action, saying on Monday: “We want real accountability. We want people prosecuted and we want people to feel safe this holiday season.”
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