Looting for Amusement and Luxury Goods
Walnut Creek is a quiet exurban town outside of San Francisco. It uncharacteristically made national news over the last few days, and not for anything good. It was the scene of a large-scale smash and grab in the wake of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.
Over a dozen vehicles pulled up to the Broadway Plaza shopping mall. Some eighty vandals, some wielding crowbars, ran inside Nordstrom and stole merchandise. Five Nordstrom employees were physically assaulted.
The action was said to be over in less than a minute. With their bounty in hand, estimated at $200,000, the thieves drove off in different directions. Only three were apprehended. Of those, one was illegally carrying a firearm.
The media has omitted the race of the perpetrators, a policy that ironically makes race even more salient. Video footage shows the perpetrators were black. Eyewitness accounts confirm that. And the same tactic and demographic makeup were seen at the Louis Vuitton smash and grab earlier in San Francisco.
The neighborhood blogs are filled with discussions. Liberals predictably claim this is because of the divide between the haves and have nots. Others have opined that it is part of the no justice, no peace result of the Rittenhouse verdict. And, of course, there was the inevitable search for root causes, which are always looked for and never really found, at least not empirically.
The cause few want to talk about is what happened at the same mall during the George Floyd riots, in June of 2020. Then our police and civic leaders decided to have the police stand in place. Macy’s was ransacked by hordes of young people who sometimes fought among themselves because some were perceived to have acquired better loot than others.
In the wake of the George Floyd case, our civic leaders, in their infinite wisdom, decided the optics of arresting young black people would not be good. It would be better to let them sate their appetite for theft. On the way out of the mall area, one vandal shot a firearm into a crowd of shoppers, hitting a young black woman in the arm. The police that were the object of the rioters’ derision were quickly giving her first aid and securing transport to the regional medical center.
So, it is not surprising that our mall was once again targeted. After all, during the first smash and grab at Macy’s, the thieves were not stopped. The police stood there like a bunch of robots whose batteries had gone dead. I doubt the rank and file desired this. This was a decision that most likely came from our cowardly civic leaders, who were more worried about optics than public safety.
New York policing has taught us the virtues of the concept of broken windows. Don’t fix the small things in a neighborhood and soon you have big things with which to deal. Start with the broken windows because societal neglect and crime are intertwined. Show that minor infractions are not going to be tolerated. In New York, dealing with broken windows has put a big damper on crime.
Our civic leaders chose the opposite perspective. Let them run wild. Let them steal. Let them flee without obstruction, and they will simply go away. Of course, the civic leaders didn’t think that they had now provided an open invitation for thieves to return for another round.
We will shortly hear from academic pundits about black rage, a theory that is used to justify all sorts of anti-social and criminal behavior. Stealing Louis Vuitton luxury goods will be justified because of the legacy of slavery and discrimination. Only harebrained academics take such nonsense seriously.
An organized criminal enterprise is not the consequence of episodic rage, but of a purposeful undertaking. And before we get too hung up on the race of the perpetrators, we should consider that a lot of different kinds of people will be buying these luxury goods on social media, knowing they are stolen.
On the streets of San Francisco, a city where shoplifting under $950 is a misdemeanor, street vendors hawk stolen goods in original wrapping, sometimes just yards from the stores from which they were stolen. Walgreens is closing twenty-two stores in San Francisco, and communities are whining about a prescription desert, but not taking social action to prevent the ongoing plague of theft.
We have a criminal underclass in our society, one that festers and then finds excuses to explode. While my white suburban neighbors have had their societal equilibrium disturbed as a result of the violence and chaos at Nordstrom, inner-city minorities deal with these problems every day, and our criminal justice system ignores them.
We are becoming acclimated to violence. Gangs shooting at each other on Interstate 880 and killing a two-year-old is just another day in Oakland. On Route 4, near Oakley, there was gunfire from a housing development at passing vehicles headed west. Our public hospitals are overrun with shooting victims, usually as part of ongoing gang wars.
There is no leadership. But there is hypocrisy. The so-called congressional “Squad” calls for defunding the police but hires private security for its own protection. An open border brings in desperate people without relevant economic skills. How will they survive? The media find both justification and sanctification for the riots it deems politically appropriate: witness Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle. In so doing, the media provide legitimacy to thuggery.
The separation between the haves and the have nots is really a separation between the elites and the ordinary, hard-working citizens. The elites have joined with the underclass, but in the end, those who rule with an absence of the heart, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted, are to be vanquished in a single historical night. It will not come soon enough.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.
To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.