WALNUT CREEEK, Calif. - The Walnut Creek City Council voted on Wednesday to approve money for additional officers and resources for the downtown area after a mass robbery where nearly 100 masked thieves rushed into Nordstrom. and took about $125,000 in merchandise.
Specifically, the council OK'd $2 million to go to extra officers, security cameras and a drone to watch over the downtown area.
"If it takes two to arrest one, and three to arrest two, if you've got 80 to 90, my math says you’re getting close to 200 officers necessary in order to arrest them in a minute and a half," Councilwoman Cindy Silva said.
Capt. Andy Brown said the extra help is needed: "In total, the criminal mob was in and out within one minute" on Nov. 20.
And he said that the staff of 11 officers who typically work on a Saturday night could not have stopped the group of 80 to 90 people running out of the store with merchandise.
"There's no guarantee that one cop posted in a specific location will be able to stop 80 suspects engaging in organized criminal mobs in grab style theft," he said. " However the goal is to deter with presence and target hardening."
Three people have been arrested so far, although police expect more arrests to come. The council was able to ask the sheriff’s office about a mistake that led to one of those suspects being accidentally released, which they said was human error.
Prevention is now the council’s focus.
They created a Broadway Plaza security plan to fund five police officers through June 2023 for $1.6 million with $130,000 set aside for overtime pay. Then the security cameras cost $215,000 and $35,000 for the drone.
But the council also wants to make sure those caught are held accountable. They sent a letter to the Contra Costa District Attorney, state legislators and Gov. Newsom to see if there are any laws needed to close any possible loopholes.
"When you change the law and you make petty crimes or you make certain crimes petty," Silva said. "But when 80 people show up to commit the same petty theft, that’s a felony."
Despite the severity of the violent crime, and the FBI’s involvement, the police chief says these thefts are isolated incidents.
"At the end of the day, when you have a destination city like Walnut Creek, a lot of people come here and quite frankly, criminals come here because they want to go where the nice stuff is," Police Chief Jamie Knox said.