Local malls, including Stanford Shopping Center, will have a greater force of armed protection this holiday season. Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered the California Highway Patrol on Nov. 22 to increase their presence around malls throughout the state.
Newsom's order comes on the heels of multiple smash-and-grab burglaries. Organized groups have gone into high-end retail stores at malls and absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive merchandise, including jewelry, handbags and clothing.
While some crime of this sort has been a mainstay in police logs for the past few years, the scope and frequency of these incidents appear to be on the rise. They are also getting larger, with as many as 80 people storming a Nordstrom's store in Walnut Creek on Nov. 20 and multiple incidents in San Francisco and Los Angeles that involved dozens of people, according to those cities' police departments. On Nov. 21, Palo Alto police thwarted 30 to 40 people who attempted to break into The RealReal luxury consignment store downtown.
The uptick in burglaries led the district attorneys from seven Bay Area counties to form a new alliance against organized retail theft, which was announced on Tuesday.
The increase in the brazen thefts comes as retailers have stocked up for the holiday shopping season. A recent survey by Simon Property Group, which operates Stanford Shopping Center and other malls nationwide, found that 80% of survey respondents considered buying gifts in retail stores as the best way to shop this year instead of making an online purchase. The survey also found that 81% of respondents were worried their holiday gifts wouldn't arrive on time or wouldn't be available at all this year and the best way to guarantee getting the gifts would be through brick-and-mortar stores, the company said in a Nov. 9 press release.
The CHP will patrol the Stanford and Town and Country Village shopping centers in Palo Alto at least through the holidays, CHP spokesperson Officer Art Montiel said.
"The officers will be making the rounds through the malls to show their presence in the areas," he said, noting that they would be covering Stanford, Town and Country and Hillsdale shopping centers along with others within each CHP jurisdiction.
"We'll just basically show our presence to hopefully deter these robberies," he said.
From large retailers to small mom-and-pop shops downtown, the thieves don't seem to discriminate. On Nov. 18, thieves demolished the door at Palo Alto jeweler De Novo Fine Contemporary Jewelry, grabbing at least $50,000 worth of gold and silver after smashing three glass cases, according to Palo Alto police.
Stanford Shopping Center Security referred questions to the mall's management, which didn't return requests for comment on any plans to beef up security on Wednesday. Town and Country has a security detail and hasn't been afflicted by the smash-and-grab crimes, according to the center's management office.