San Francisco mayor's plan to combat flash mob looting will limit access to stores ahead of holidays

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the city will limit car access to the city’s popular shopping district, Union Square, in response to the mobs of thieves that have ransacked high-end stores in recent days. 

“We’re going to be making some changes to Union Square and how cars are able to access,” Breed said at a press conference Saturday. “There will be limited access in terms of when you come to this area.”

San Francisco and the Bay Area were repeatedly hit by mobs of thieves over the weekend, including on Friday night in Union Square. Multiple people broke the windows of a Louis Vuitton in the city and “emptied out” the store of its high-end merchandise. Eight people were arrested in connection to the incident. 

San Francisco police said that nearly 12 stores in the city were attacked by a mob of at least 80 people this weekend alone. 

In Oakland, about 12 miles from San Francisco, at least two dozen businesses were ransacked over the weekend, according to the city’s police chief. 

The rise in the crimes, which has overwhelmingly been described as “organized” by local police, comes after the Bay Area has already been grappling with repeated incidents of looting and smash-and-grab incidents in recent months. 

Most notably, the city saw a staggering increase in car break-ins, with the Central District alone reporting a 753% increase in such crimes from May of last year to 2021. 

Some police and retailers pointed to California’s Proposition 47 for the increase in crimes, which reduced shoplifting charges regarding the theft of $950 or less from felonies to misdemeanors. 

In 2018, state legislators passed a temporary law in response to complaints surrounding the law, which established a new crime of organized retail theft. A California Highway Patrol task force was also created to help assist areas with high instances of such crimes. The law expired at the start of this year, however, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom also weighed in on the rampant crimes, calling them “unacceptable. Period, full stop.” He also noted police presence is increasing in affected areas.

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