Mary’s 3-Point Plan to Address Smash and Grab Retail Theft

We need to send a clear message to criminals in our communities, that we WILL justly and fairly uphold the law. That’s why Mary created a Three-Point plan to address retail theft.

Mary Knox will bring a lifetime of experience to the DA’s office. From advocating for victim’s rights to winning challenging, high profile cases, Mary is ready to bring fresh leadership to the District Attorney’s office starting on day one.

Contra Costa law enforcement agencies are partnered to provide mutual aid during emergency situations.  This “mutual aid” concept should be employed throughout the Bay Area to strategically shut down access routes for potential retail targets to intervene and prevent crime before it happens. 

The investigative and technological expertise of this team will: 

-Identify the criminal syndicates who organize the smash-and-grab robberies 

Intercept the “chatter” on social media planning these events 

Share information between law enforcement agencies to quickly locate and arrest perpetrators 

The ideal team to coordinate this activity is the DA/FBI Safe Streets Task Force, comprised of local, state, and federal task force agents who are partnered with prosecutors assigned to the Community Violence Reduction Unit (a unit that I created in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office).  

Given the violence involved and the value of the merchandise being stolen, the task force will collaborate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to charge qualifying cases under the Hobbs Act and prosecute them in federal court. 

The criminal syndicates committing the smash-and-grab robberies, as well as strings of residential burglaries in Contra Costa County, are mobile and active in surrounding counties.  During the past four years, regional law enforcement agencies have done an impressive job of sharing information to identify the true scope of the criminality of these crews and to provide investigative support.  The information supplied by this well-coordinated network provided me with the evidence required to file multiple counts following very significant organized retail theft and residential robberies.  I worked with the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill Police Departments through the investigative challenges of the looting in 2020 and filed charges on a number of suspects.  As District Attorney, I will continue to support this allied inter-county effort.

Organized shoplifting gangs have been using the regional freeway system to quickly move between targets in neighboring law enforcement jurisdictions.  By the time an investigation starts at the first crime, the gang has moved on to loot another store in the next county.   

Contra Costa’s Freeway Security Network has the technological capability to combat organized retail theft.  The Allied Freeway Agencies have received additional funding for the Network and direction to develop a plan to augment and expand the Network county-wide in order to provide technological leads in preventing and investigating criminal syndicates involved in the violent organized retail theft.   

I am proud to have originated the creation of this freeway camera system to combat freeway shootings.  Since the network was installed, freeway shootings have been reduced by 90% in Contra Costa County while remaining all too frequent in neighboring counties. I’ll continue to work with law enforcement and elected leaders to propose that funding that Governor Newsom included in the state budget be used to incorporate additional technology to target organized retail theft into the Freeway Security Network.

Organized retail theft would not exist without social media, which is the key element to planning and profiting from these crimes. 

Looting is coordinated through social media 

Social media platforms provide the means of communication which allows criminals to conspire to commit take-over robberies.  These platforms are directly aiding and abetting the commission of large-scale crimes, which may result in criminal liability for the social media platforms.  I will call on the social media platforms, as well as private communication platforms, to monitor and immediately report to law enforcement any communications planning a smash-and-grab robbery or the “fencing” of stolen property.   

We must make it clear to technology companies that failure to monitor and report the coordination of criminal enterprise should not be a protected business activity, and should instead be considered as aiding and abetting that crime. 

Stolen goods are sold via online marketplaces 

If a market for the merchandise that is being stolen did not exist, the criminal syndicates would have no motive to steal.  While I am out talking with community members, most are surprised to learn that the merchandise that is stolen from CVS, Walgreens, Lululemon and the high-end retailers is often sold on the internet via OfferUp, LetGo, and the Facebook and Amazon Market Places.

Paid for by Mary Knox for Contra Costa District Attorney 2022
FPPC# 1439290

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