A brand new kind of smash and grab robberies sweeps California and elsewhere while violent crime is on the rise across almost the entire country, resulting in thousands of more deaths than less than two years ago, but some progressives deny it’s even happening, pushing ahead with a plan to empty federal prisons, and others remain completely clueless. This will likely get worse before it gets better…
“We have to talk about specifics because, for example, we’re actually seeing a lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” progressive firebrand and Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Times last week when asked about the recent, never before seen wave of organized smash and grab robberies in California. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.” It’s unclear what Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was talking about, except she appears to be in complete denial along with the most of the progressive movement. What data is required to acknowledge a series of never before seen crimes taking place in California and elsewhere? Does she think the police and media are lying about it? Making them up out of whole cloth for whatever reason?
Organized online like the flash mobs of yore, these new crime mobs descend on a business en masse complete with ski masks and crowbars, steal everything they can find, and then exit the building to waiting getaway cars. At times, 80 people have participated in the theft of a single store, suggesting both a high level of planning and an unfortunately high level of interest in participating. As Los Angeles Police Chief, Michel Moore described it, “They communicate that to others, and then they descend on that location.” The latest round of these robberies occured just this past weekend, where the robbers used bear spray on a security guard at Nordstroms in Los Angeles. Bear spray was also used at an earlier robbery at Nordstroms in the San Fernando Valley on November 24. To date, these groups have targeted at least 11 retailers, stealing around $330,000 of goods, terrorizing customers and injuring a few security guards with seeming impunity.
So far, the police have arrested 13 adults and one juvenile across all 11 robberies, but they were all promptly released either without or without bail, more on that in a moment. In the meantime, NBC News reported that “All have been released from custody, either due to their age, after posting bail or because of no-bail rules for some crimes put in place for by the judicial system to reduce jail populations in the Covid-19 pandemic, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said.” These fourteen suspects represent only a small fraction of the full number involved, however. In San Francisco, it’s estimated that 80 individuals participated in a hit on Nordstrom, plus another 40-50 at Sam’s Jewelers. It remains unknown to what extent each store is attacked by a different group, or if it is mostly the same people. For their part, all the police will say is that they are working as fast as possible to arrest more suspects and stop the sprees entirely. “We’re acting fast to stop this in its tracks,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference last week. Nor is California alone in being victimized by this new type of crime. A Louis Vuitton store outside of Chicago was also hit a few days earlier with thieves stealing $120,000 worth of merchandise.
In response, the Biden Administration seems just as clueless as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, blaming the incidents on the pandemic while talking about the economy and how wonderfully we’re doing, complete with taking shots at former President Trump. “Big cities are dealing with smash-and-grab robberies, a record number of police officers have been shot and killed this year. What is President Biden going to do about all this lawlessness?” Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “Well, Peter, I would say that when the president proposed additional funding in his budget over the funding that had been proposed by the prior president to increase in support local police departments, make sure we keep cops on the beat,” she said. “Does the president still think that crime is up because of the pandemic?” Mr. Doocy followed up. “I think many people have conveyed that and also one of the…root causes of crime in communities is guns and gun violence. And we’ve seen that statistically around the country,” the Press Secretary answered, almost nonsensically considering the much-maligned “gun culture” was the same before and after the pandemic, but the increase in crime is new. “So when a huge group of criminals organizes themselves and they want to go loot a store — a CVS, a Nordstrom, a Home Depot until the shelves are clean — do you think that’s because of the pandemic?” Mr. Doocy pressed her further. “I think a root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic, yes,” Ms. Psaki replied, not even bothering to explain how a radically new type of crime is somehow spawned almost 2 years into it.
At the same time, perhaps she deserves at least some credit for not objecting to Mr. Doocy’s use of the word “loot.” In some progressive quarters, that simple word is no longer allowed because of its association with people of color. “As the Bay Area grapples with a wave of seemingly organized smash and grab robberies this weekend, policing and journalism analysts are cautioning against the use of the term looting,” explained Race and Social Justice Reporter Julian Glover of ABC-7 News last month. ABC-7 itself reports that “The penal code defines looting as ‘theft or burglary…during a ‘state of emergency’, ‘local emergency’, or ‘evacuation order resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot or other natural or manmade disaster.’” They quote Lorenzo Boyd, PhD, a Professor of Criminal Justice and Community Policing at the University of New Haven and a retired police officer, who believes this tiny distinction matters. “Looting is a term that we typically use when people of color or urban dwellers are doing something. We tend not to use that term for other people when they do the exact same thing,” he explained.
Whatever you choose to call it, these new smash and grab robberies aren’t the only crime wave America is contending with either. Almost across the board, violent crime is spiking to levels not seen in decades. Between 2019 and 2020, gun violence rose by close to 30% and almost 5,000 more people were murdered across the United States, the largest year on year jump in homicides since 1960 when the population was much smaller. That’s 5,000 more people dead, gone from this earth forever in a single year. This unfortunate trend has continued into 2021 in cities both large and small. CalMatters reports the “‘Devil on the Loose’: What’s behind Kern County’s soaring homicide rate.” Kern County is a relatively rural area of California with only 900,000 residents. It shouldn’t be a mecca for gang warfare, but that’s what they are claiming. Over on the East Coast, WTOP reports that Montgomery County, Maryland has “fewer police officers as violent crime rises. “Crime data for the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year shows that the homicide rate is up more than 29%, aggravated assaults are up nearly 24% and carjackings rose more than 126%.” Nearby in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital is on the verge of 200 homicides this year, already ahead of 2020’s total. A bit further south in North Carolina, “Fayetteville officials concerned about homicides, drug use in city as crime stats released,” according to The Fayetteville Observer. Homicides are up a whopping 39.13% year over year in the relatively small city. These facts were just from the first page of Google search. The second page shows Austin, TX homicides on the rise, homicides in Richmond, VA reaching a 15 year high, and the state of Ohio proposing $250 million in additional funding for police and first responders.
Meanwhile, in New York City the situation is so bad that private companies are encouraging their employees to stay off certain streets after dark or arranging transportation so they don’t need to be on the streets at all. Bank of America has asked their younger associates to “dress down” to avoid attention around Bryant Park as the city reported a 15% increase in felony assaults in just 28 days, after murder rates surged 42% over the past 2 years. Citibank is offering their workers private shuttles. One person who works on Wall Street told On The Money, “it’s been a topic of conversation on the floor frequently over the last few months.” “Some people I work with have been accosted…I’d say it’s becoming frequent, if not common,” the source continued. “There’s probably a dozen incidents that I saw, or have been involved in,” some verbal and some physical.
Conservatives like myself believe this spike in crime is being driven by a combination of the defund the police philosophy and the practice of no or limited bail for even violent offenders with a long history. A recent case in point is the atrocity in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Darrell Brooks is accused of driving his Ford Explorer SUV into a crowd at a Christmas parade, killing at least 6, including children and senior citizens, and injuring dozens of others. Mr. Brooks was on the streets after posting a mere $1,000 bail just a few days earlier for attempting to run over his girlfriend with that same SUV. At the time of that domestic incident, he was already out on $500 bail for shooting two people in another felony case. Mr. Brooks’ rap sheets runs to some 50 pages.
Alas, Mr. Brooks is not alone: On September 23, Milwaukee police arrested Omarion Jones for suspected bank robbery. Police had tagged the vehicle with a GPS tracking device to investigate a series of similar robberies and at least one shooting. Mr. Jones was released on $500 bail that, incredibly, he didn’t even have to pay. Instead, he just signed a note, promising he would pay at some point. “It’s standard for Milwaukee,” explained former prosecutor Tom Grieve, and yet legal experts are still cautioning people from drawing conclusions. “We don’t want to have a kneejerk reaction here and say ‘Let’s lock up a lot of people pretrial,” explained John Gross, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and director of its Public Defender Project. “I’m sure the district attorney’s office is going to look back at this and ask themselves, ‘Did we get this wrong?’” Really, you don’t say they might consider they made a mistake? He continued, “This is such an extreme incident…could they reasonably expect he would get behind a vehicle and run people down on a parade route? What would have alerted you to the capacity he would have had for this kind of violence?” Is he really asking whether someone who tried to run over his girlfriend while out on bail for shooting to people might commit another act of violence?
Unfortunately, this approach seems to be standard now in most big cities and even some states across the country. New York, New Jersey, California, New Mexico, and many other localities have eliminated or greatly reduced cash bail, sometimes to devastating effect. These laws are almost exclusively pushed by progressives, but that’s not all they want to reform. They’re also targeting prisons themselves. Representative Rashida Tlaib, an outspoken progressive and member of “The Squad” along with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, is a supporter of the BREATHE Act with orders the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a “roadmap for prison abolition,” that addresses the “full decarceration of federal detention facilities within 10 years,” plus “a moratorium on all new federal prison, jail, immigrant and youth detention construction.” This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and is seen as a pillar of police and justice reform in the wake of the George Floyd killing at the hands of Derek Chauvin. As progressive “explainer” site Vox.com describes it, “Now is the time to revolutionize policing.”
Except even one of the bill’s strongest supporters, Representative Tlaib, has trouble explaining what precisely we are supposed to do with thousands of violent felons currently stuck in those prisons. In a recent interview, Axios’ Jonathan Swan asked her, “To what extent have you wrestled with releasing any potential downsides of releasing into society every single person who currently in a federal prison?” She replied, “Yeah, I think that everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to just release everybody.’ That’s not what I’m—” Swan interjected, “That’s what the act says. “Yeah, but did you see how many people are mentally ill that are in prison right now,” Representative Tlaib tried to explain, dodging the question. “No, I know,” Mr. Swan responded. “But the act you endorsed actually says release everyone in 10 years…There are like, human traffickers, child sex [predators]. Do you mean that you don’t actually support that? Because you endorsed the bill.” It took several more attempts for Mr. Swan to get Representative Tlaib to admit that some people simply belong behind bars. “Do you think all people can be rehabilitated?” Mr. Swan asked. “I don’t think so. I’ve been very clear about that,” she replied after being exceedingly unclear. “I would have to look at every case individually and figure all of that out. Everyone in jail is not the same.”
This is one of those bromides that, while it strictly might be true, is so meaningless it’s difficult to believe any rational person, much less one elected to Congress would actually say it. There’s one sense everyone in jail is the same: They’ve all committed felonies, usually serious ones involving violence. They were locked up by a jury of their peers because 12 people agreed they shouldn’t be on the streets. Why they committed the crime and whether or not they can be rehabilitated is an interesting question in many cases, but that doesn’t change the underlying fact that we aren’t dealing with shoplifting or joyriding teens, and yet many progressives want them out. So many in fact, that this bill actually passed the House of Representatives. It’s not some fevered fantasy of a socialist college student. Democrats voted to make it the law of the land, emptying federal prisons without a care.
With all this in mind, is it any wonder why crime is spiking across the country? The first step to recovery is acceptance, but all progressives offer is denial of the obvious and it is costing lives, thousands of them. Unfortunately, it’s far more likely to get worse before it gets better with President Joe Biden in charge. Once upon a time, he was tough on crime. Today, he’s tougher on Republicans.