Bay Area law enforcement agencies hope teaming up puts end to 'flash mob' robberies

In the ongoing effort to combat large-scale retail thefts, Walnut Creek Police Chief Jamie Knox has reached out to organizations outside the county and city for help.

Knox reportedly contacted the Department of Justice, U.S. Marshalls Office, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC).

"Our police chief has really reached out to other agencies both at the local, state, and federal level to make sure we’re doing all we can to share information and that information that might be gathered by other agencies is shared with us at the local level," said Betsy Burkhart, communications and outreach manager for the City of Walnut Creek.

The groups that are organizing these surprise robberies are communicating somehow, which has been a problem for law enforcement agencies.

Burkhart said there’s a misconception that law enforcement can easily monitor these groups to stop these crimes.

"To be honest, they’re not broadcasting these easily as they’re used to on traditional social media, so we want to work on different ways to monitor their activity," Burkhart said.

NCRIC could potentially provide police with intelligence that can stop robberies before they happen or provide police with enough information to allow officers to provide protection to the targeted businesses.

There’s been a massive effort in recent weeks to find a solution to ‘flash mob’ robberies.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last November that he’ll propose an increase in the 2022-2023 state budget to combat retail theft. The governor also directed the California Highway Patrol to increase their presence near major retail sites.

A collaboration is reportedly underway in Walnut Creek where the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office announced it would provide deputies to help patrol the downtown area of the city, in a move that comes on top of the $2 million that councilmembers recently approved. Those funds will go toward hiring five additional officers, pay for more overtime, install new security cameras and the purchase of a new drone.

"We’re trying to monitor activity as much as possible and make sure that Walnut Creek is at safe as it can be for anybody coming here whether it’s to shop, to dine, or just to visit," Burkhart said.

KTVU reached out Thursday to CHP and was told that collaborations to combat retail theft are already underway with Bay Area law enforcement agencies, but the agency declined to provide specific operational details so as not to tip off thieves.