PALO ALTO (KPIX) -- This holiday season the California Highway Patrol will provide additional armed protection at major shopping malls across the state as retail robberies become more frequent and brazen.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state officers to increase patrols on freeways adjacent to busy California shopping centers and make stops at the malls.
"They're not just stealing people's products and impacting their livelihoods, they're stealing a sense of place and confidence," Newsom said.
The CHP's Organized Retail Crime Task Force plans to also help local law enforcement investigate retail crimes and recover stolen merchandise. Since 2019, the task force has made 240 arrests and recovered $18.9 million in stolen goods.
"I don't feel safe anymore," said Jocelyn Quiroz. "We try not to go to San Francisco anymore because it doesn't make sense to go there right now."
Quiroz, who chose to shop on Monday at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, said she's more vigilant of her surroundings while shopping and picky about where she goes in the wake of the recent retail smash-and-grabs.
The wave of robberies have spanned the entire Bay Area. San Francisco police made multiple arrests recently in a brazen smash-and-grab at the Louis Vuitton store. About 40 thieves stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise. An estimated 80 robbers ransacked a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek. Stores in Palo Alto, Concord and San Jose have also been recently hit.
In San Jose, police and security stepped up patrols and stood at almost every doorway at Valley Fair mall and Santa Row for Black Friday shopping.
"Full stop, we want real accountability," Gov. Newsom said. "We want people prosecuted and we want people to feel safe this holiday season."
Last week, seven Bay Area district attorneys, including Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced they'd formed an alliance to prosecute thieves. The stance, they said, would make cases against the suspects stronger as it moves through the judicial system.
To follow through with his word, Rosen said two robbery suspects caught last week stealing perfume and cologne at Valley Fair and Oakridge malls had their bail set at $2 million.
"It's really ridiculous that people are doing that, and that people are kind of scared to get out of their homes to shop for the holidays," said Daniela Jimenez who works at the Stanford Shopping Center. "I feel like it's pretty absurd."
Quiroz said she's grateful for the extra patrols, but said she'll feel safer when she sees the book thrown at those who are caught.
"People can still rob without any consequences, so it's sad," said Quiroz. "They're going to keep doing it, unfortunately."
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