Business leaders and Republicans are slamming New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others who have cast doubt on whether the rampant, country-wide smash-and-grabs are occurring.
“A lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not panning out. I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up,” Ocasio-Cortez stated.
The comments sparked heated responses from Republican lawmakers and retail business leaders.
“I don’t know what data she is talking about,” said Illinois Representative Rodney Davis. “But you don’t need much data from someplace in San Francisco or California. All you need to do is walk down the street to the CVS in Eastern Market.”
“I’ve seen on multiple occasions when I’ve been in there buying things; someone will come in and raid a shelf and walk out.”
In a statement, Walgreens said that “organized retail crime is one of the top challenges facing” the company. The statement continued, saying that the crime “has evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online.”
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) also took issue with Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks in a comment made to The Washington Times.
“Respectfully, the Congresswoman has no idea what she is talking about. Both the data and a stack of video evidence makes fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions,” said Jason Brewer, RILA senior executive vice president of communications, in an email.
“If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that.”
According to Indiana Republican Representative Jim Banks, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are “tone-deaf and offensive” to the family of Kevin Nishita, an Oakland security guard.
Nishita was a former San Jose police officer shot and killed while defending a news crew reporting on a smash-and-grab crime in November.
Banks and others point out that California and other cities across the U.S. have faced repeated smash-and-grab incidents since November, with many occurring in and near San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Crime on the rise
California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom has called on mayors to “step up” and hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes.
He also said that California Highway Patrol’s presence would be increased along highways near shopping destinations.
“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,” stated Newsom.
“These are not victimless crimes, and I have no empathy for these criminal elements.”
State and police union leaders have pinned the blame for the smash-and-grab thefts on the ACLU for its support of Proposition 47. With the passage of Proposition 47, shoplifting charges were lowered from misdemeanors to felonies when thefts were $950 or less.
According to San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya, “San Francisco voters were lied to by the ACLU. Voters were told that prosecuting thieves was really a racist attack on people of color whose only real crime was property.”
“So Proposition 47, the so-called Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act lowered felonies to misdemeanors for stealing goods valued at $950 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.”
In one California town, Walnut Creek, smash-and-grab thieves stole around $125,000 in merchandise from a Nordstrom, spurring the city council to approve $2 million in funds directed toward security and its police department.
“When society removes accountability for bad behavior, criminals get emboldened to commit more crimes, drug addicts thumb their noses at mandatory treatment and vandalism, and petty theft turn into riotous looting and murder,” said Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
“One does not need to be clairvoyant to have predicted that in California, the ACLU’s Proposition 47 would turn a family trip to the mall or a Home Depot into a dangerous gamble for our residents.”