Social media is ’emboldening’ smash-and-grab robberies, police officer says

Holidays On Alert

(NewsNation Now) — Social media is “emboldening” criminals to plan smash-and-grab robberies in large cities across the country, an assistant police chief said.

Shocking footage of large-scale smash-and-grab crimes at stores across the country has put a new spotlight on retail crime and the subsequent disciplinary policies.

“I think that people are being emboldened now by seeing these flash mob robberies on social media,” Jerry Bauzon of the Austin Police Department said on “Morning in America.” “I believe that the more we identify these robberies, the more that we highlight them, the more people will feel comfortable and know that you know what, I may be able to do this.”

While social media has amplified the reach of who sees the smash-and-grab robberies, authorities say they have been happening for a while.

“This has been happening for a while now,” Lt. Tracy McCray with the San Francisco Police Department said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert” last week. “And you’re now starting to get the upfront view of it, because everybody’s out (with) their phones … just waiting for it to happen.”

While a series of headline-grabbing crime stories about mobs of people smashing and grabbing luxury items from Los Angeles to Chicago have taken much of the public’s attention, single operators have also been a growing problem for retailers who say the thieves face little consequence.

“I think criminals are being emboldened to commit these crimes because they know that they’re not facing as high a penalty as other violent crime,” Bauzon said.

Officials are trying to find ways to deal with the renewed attention on the robberies. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this month he thinks shoplifters should be prosecuted under existing California laws and promise that the proposed budget he sends to state lawmakers next month will “significantly increase our efforts to go after these retail rings.”

A poll that was commissioned by NewsNation and conducted by Decision Desk HQ found that 74% of those surveyed had heard about the recent smash-and-grab robberies at malls and retail stores. Of those who had heard of the robberies, 48% said they felt less safe shopping in person this holiday season.

“Holidays on Alert” is NewsNation’s weeklong series getting the facts around holiday crime concerns. You can view of all NewsNation’s coverage here.

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