BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Retail theft is on the rise all around the state as the eve of the holiday shopping surge approaches, shoppers are worried and confused.
Employees at the Olive Plaza shopping center in Northwest Bakersfield, say the crimes happen so often that they already know these thieves by their first names. They think a lackluster response from law enforcement mixed with strict store policies might be the reason why thieves continue to run rampant.
It’s happening from North California to Southern California. In San Francisco, a large crowd stormed several retail stores and took off with handfuls of merchandise.
In Los Angeles, brazen burglars vandalized a store at The Grove, eventually leading to an arrest by LAPD hours later. But the fear and terror these retail thieves bring with them is a cause for concern for shoppers.
“It’s a done deal,” said Laura McClure, a shopper at the Olive Plaza. “I’ve been at stores where they went out the front exit while I was shopping, I go the opposite direction when I see it happen.”
It’s a crime that targets anyone, even Governor Gavin Newsom has condemned the crime after thieves broke into his business, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in San Francisco, three times this year.
“I have no sympathy,” said Gov. Newsom. “No empathy, whatsoever for people smashing and stealing people’s items.”
Shoppers say the strict policies many retailers have that bar employee from intervening with a theft might be one of the reasons these thieves continue to come back. One of those shoppers is Cecelia Anderson who works at a retailer with strict intervention policies.
“Merchandise is guaranteed, a life isn’t,” said Anderson. “They [retailers] just have to step up their presence.”
Thefts are common at the Olive Plaza near Oildale; it doesn’t come as a surprise for the security guard tasked with patrolling the shopping center.
“I patrol this entire parking lot,” said Cannton Moore. “People will sometimes wait until I go and patrol the back and that is when they will hit Ross or Dollar Tree and that is where employees will run out and say, ‘you just missed him.
That’s exactly what happened, minutes before our interview a distressed dollar store manager ran out after a transient ran out with items. No police showed up, and no report was filed immediately. In this part of town, the Kern County Sheriff is the one to respond to calls.
“When they pull out a weapon or a knife, which has happened and it happens a lot,” said Moore. “Some stores will still not call the cops because they won’t come as quick as possible.”
In a statement, KCSO says: “KCSO responds first to in progress and life-threatening calls for service.
(Reports filed online) are reviewed and followed up on as soon as there is a deputy available.”
Under California state penal code, a citizen’s arrest is allowed but any liability stemming from that involvement becomes the sole liability of the citizen, something KCSO does not recommend people to do.
“They are letting someone just get away,” said Anderson. “When they are the law enforcers, it should be a sudden response.”