Cannabis shops across the San Francisco Bay Area have been thrown into dire straits as gangs of thieves broke into more than 15 shops throughout November during the series of ‘smash-and-grab’ robberies plaguing California.
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told reporters that ‘hundreds’ of vehicles targeted marijuana stores in Oakland last month, firing 175 shots and stealing about $5 million worth of products.
Alphonso ‘Tucky’ Blunt, owner of Blunts and Moore, told MJBizDaily that his store lost about $25,000 during a November 22 raid, where more than a dozen burglars ransacked the store.
‘I know 25 or so businesses that got hit … and out of all those, the percentage I know that told me that they may not be able to reopen is about 50 percent. That’s scary, Blunt said.
‘I was safer, and had more money, (selling) on the street, illegally.’
A gang of thieves broke into Blunts and Moore on November 22, making off with about $25,000 worth of product as the ransacked the store
Alphonso ‘Tucky’ Blunt, owner of the Blunts and Moore cannabis shop, said robberies in San Francisco have gotten so bad that he was safer selling drugs on the streets
It was one of more than 15 robberies reported by the Oakland Police Department, but Blunt said he knows about 25 shops that were hit last month
Blunt and other marijuana shop owners said that their businesses are targeted because thieves believe they have a lot of cash on hand, which they said is not the case.
Blunt estimated that his shop has been vandalized or robbed at least 10 times since opening in 2018.
Amber Senter, the co-founder of Supernova Women – an Oakland-based nonprofit that helps women of color in the cannabis business – said robberies can be a death knell for dispensaries because insurance coverage is hard for them to get.
‘A lot of these folks are not open and won’t be open for a while, because they can’t bounce back from these things,’ Senter said during a November 29 news conference about the Oakland robberies.
‘They don’t have the runway and the extra capital and the war chest of cash to come back from something like this.’
Raeven Duckett-Robinson, owner of Community Gardens in Oakland, echoed the concerns after his shop was also robbed last month. He told MJBizDaily that most cannabis shop owners ‘living and working hand to mouth’ and could not wait for an insurance claim to help them.
‘Even if you do get the insurance money, it’s not going to be next week,’ Duckett-Robinson said.
Blunt told KRON4 that Oakland officers advised him to hire armed guards to shoot potential looters, something Armstrong denied during a news conference this week.
Blunt said that his shop has been vandalized or robbed at least 10 times since opening in 2018
Following the string of robberies, many owners said they might not be able to reopen
This map shows the locations of some of the major smash-and-grab robberies that took place in California between November 19 and December 2. The majority of robberies conducted by gangs of thieves have taken place in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles
The San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles have been among the hardest hit regions in a series of robberies undertaken by gangs of thieves.
Police in Los Angeles had announced 14 arrests on Thursday in connection with 11 recent smash-and-grab robberies at stores where nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen, but all the suspects have been released.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said that most of the accused robbers suspected of ransacking businesses between November 18 and 28 were bailed out or met no-bail criteria, and one is a juvenile.
At a joint news conference, both Moore and Mayor Eric Garcetti called for an end to a no-bail policy for some defendants aimed at reducing overcrowding at Los Angeles County jails during the coronavirus pandemic.
Garcetti called for an end to a no-bail policy for criminals who endanger store employees
California’s Proposition 47 – lighter sentences for thieves
Proposition 47 was passed by California voters on November 5, 2014.
It made some ‘non-violent’ property crimes, where the value of the stolen goods does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors.
It also made some ‘simple’ drug possession offenses into misdemeanors, and allows past convictions for these charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor by a court.
Under California law, though, if two or more person’s conspire to ‘cheat and defraud any person or any property, by any means which are in themselves criminal’ they can face no more than one year in county prison, a fine of $10,000 or a combination of the two.
In California, a statewide policy of imposing $0 bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies ended last year, but it was kept in place within the LA County Superior Court system.
‘You could be arrested for a crime such as burglary, a serious felony… and that’s zero bail, meaning that we book and process and identify you, and then your arraignment day is three to four months from now,’ Moore said.
LAPD’s top cop said at least $338,000 in goods were stolen over ten days from stores and malls across the city that incurred $40,000 in property damage. Investigators are searching for multiple outstanding suspects, he said.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin last week announced felony charges against nine people for a series of thefts, and Bay Area prosecutors announced a joint effort to combat organized retail theft.
In the Bay Area, the City Council in Walnut Creek this week approved an additional $2 million for policing after nearly 100 thieves wearing ski masks carried out a smash-and-grab mob robbery at a Nordstrom store in late November.
An estimated $125,000 in merchandise was stolen. Two employees were assaulted and one was hit with pepper spray.
San Francisco Bay Area saw a robbery involving a gaggle of hammer-wielding masked bandits who ransacked jewelry, sunglasses and clothing stores at the Southland Mall in the San Jose suburb of Hayward.
Dramatic footage showed a group of about 40 to 50 robbers smashing glass display cases at Sam’s Jewelers at the mall. Staffers are seen screaming in terror as the heist unfolded.
A group of about 40 to 50 teenage shoplifters made off with an unknown amount of jewelry and other items in Hayward, California, in November
A smash-and-grab robbery took place on Thursday in San Jose, where four masked suspects used hammers to smash display cases at Quick Service Jewelry Design (pictured)
Around the same time, packs of thieves ransacked a sunglasses store and a Lululemon store in San Jose, stealing nearly $50,000 in merchandise, according to the San Jose Police Department
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has boasted of his criminal justice reform efforts, promised that the proposed budget he sends to state lawmakers this month will ‘significantly increase our efforts to go after these retail rings,’ despite a controversial 2014 law – Proposition 47 – that bars prosecutors from charging suspected shoplifters accused of stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise with felonies.
‘We need to break up these crime rings, and we need to make an example out of these folks,’ Newsom said last month. ‘We cannot allow this to continue.’