Three suspects were arrested Saturday night after dozens ransacked a Nordstrom department store near San Francisco in what police are calling a “smash-and-grab” incident.
About 80 suspects were involved in the crime at the department store in Broadway Plaza, an outdoor mall in Walnut Creek east of San Francisco, and they fled in at least 10 different vehicles, Lt. Ryan Hibbs at the Walnut Creek Police Department told CNN.
“A number of vehicles were leaving. We managed to stop one of them,” said Hibbs, adding that no injuries were reported.
Authorities are questioning those who were arrested to determine the identities of the other suspects, Hibbs said.
The manager of a nearby restaurant told CNN affiliate KPIX that the suspects were wearing masks and carried what appeared to be crowbars.
“There was a mob of people,” Brett Barrett said. “The police were flying in. It was like a scene out of a movie. It was insane. … It was a scary scene for a moment.”
Police have not yet estimated a dollar amount for the stolen items, Hibbs said.
The incident followed a series of similar lootings Friday night in Union Square and surrounding areas in San Francisco, including at a Louis Vuitton store, a Burberry store, a jewelry store, a Bloomingdale’s, a Walgreens, cannibis dispensaries and even an eyeglass shop, Police Chief Bill Scott said at a news conference Saturday.
San Francisco has been struggling with a surge in crime this year as it reopened during the pandemic. In the Central district, for example, larceny and theft incidents are up almost 88% from a year earlier, and overall crime is up almost 52%, according to police statistics.
Eight people were arrested after Friday night’s break-ins, Scott said. As police go through video footage from the scenes, the chief said he expects more arrests.
It was a concerted effort, he said, and the perpetrators aimed to overwhelm police.
“Their plan was hoping that we wouldn’t be here, but we were. And some of them think they got away with it, but I am confident, I am confident, that there will be more arrests to follow,” Scott said.
All of the eight arrested were “young adults,” he said.
Police seized two vehicles and two guns, Scott said.
The city will “flood” the area with police going forward, the chief said.
“We will do what we need to do to put an end to this madness,” Scott said. What happened, he said, was “absolutely unacceptable in all forms.”
San Francisco isn’t the only city grappling with group “grab and go” crimes. On Wednesday afternoon, several people swarmed into a Louis Vuitton store in a mall in Oak Brook, Illinois, taking about $120,000 in merchandise, CNN affiliate WLS reported.
In surveillance video provided by the Oak Brook Police Department, 14 suspects can be seen grabbing items from shelves.
“Once they entered the store, they pulled out the garbage bags from their coats and started filling them with merchandise,” police Chief James Kruger said, according to WLS.
The suspects used three vehicles to drive away. Police recovered one of them, a Dodge Charger reported stolen last month in Chicago, WLS reported.