Smash-and-grab thieves strike Bay Area stores; looting has public on edge

Thieves struck a jewelry store in the Southland Mall in Hayward on Sunday, marking the Bay Area's third large smash and grab in three days. 

Hayward police say they're looking for nine suspects, who entered Sam's Jewelers just before 5:30  p.m. and broke through several glass cases with sledgehammers, before making off with an unknown amount of merchandise. Offers say they fled in two cars.

The mass theft comes one day after Walnut Creek police say a brazen group of 80 thieves made off with piles of merchandise Saturday night at the Broadway Plaza Nordstrom. And Friday, thieves struck several luxury stories, including Louis Vuitton, in San Francisco’s Union Square district. Three people have been arrested in Walnut Creek; eight people have been arrested in San Francisco. 

All the looting has the community on edge. 

"My stress level, seeing this happen and going through this," Walnut Creek employee Milana Buzzoni said. "I don't feel comfortable finishing work at night." 

In a statement put out by Walnut Creek police, the department warned about intelligence they’d received suggesting the same thieves might strike again on Sunday and advising stores to consider taking additional security precautions or closing early. 

Nearby independent retailers say they are worried they may become the next target of smash grab thieves. 

"That was honestly one of the first things that I thought about, because usually it’s just me here and so in that instance there’s just not much I can do besides protect myself and then exit through the back." said Crystal Miramontes, store manager at gift store Paia.

Several area private security agencies told KTVU that the crime spree has them fielding an uptick in calls from area retailers. 

Over the weekend, there were break-ins and burglaries at Walgreens on High Street in Oakland and at the Men's Warehouse in Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton. In the South Bay, thieves targeted a Lululemon on Sunday night.

Last weekend, thieves were caught on camera using hammers to smash a jewelry case at Ice Berg Diamonds in Concord's Sun Valley Mall.

A number of Bay Area independent shops say security guards are more than they can afford. But one store owner in Walnut Creek says she is considering trying to get area retailers to band together to share the expense.

"We could maybe collectively have some more security here on the downtown small business side of Walnut Creek," said Lynn Nice, store owner of Labels.

In the meantime, after Saturday night’s large scale smash and grab, Nice says she has opted to lock a store entrance leading to some of the store's more expensive items.

Nordstrom Walnut Creek