A security guard protecting a San Francisco Bay Area television news crew died of a gunshot wound suffered during an attempted robbery. The television news crew was reporting on a smash and grab robbery. The thieves attempted to rob KRON-TV’s camera equipment near downtown Oakland on Wednesday.
A statement was issued Saturday of the security guard’s death from a gunshot to his abdomen. Kevin Nishita was an armed guard for Star Protection Agency who protected news crews who are often targeted by thieves for their equipment.
“We are devastated by the loss of security guard and our friend, Kevin Nishita. Our deepest sympathy goes to Kevin’s wife, his children, his family, and to all his friends and colleagues,” KRON-TV’s vice president and general manager, Jim Rose, said in a statement issued Saturday.
News crews covering organized looting, smash and grabs, and robberies of retail stores are susceptible to robberies themselves. This news crew was reporting on a robbery of a clothing store. A group of thieves broke in and stole the merchandise. A reward of $32,500 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in his killing. He was a retired police officer. Alameda County deputies escorted his body from the hospital.
Organized groups of thieves have set off a series of thefts throughout California and the trend is moving to other parts of the country. These robberies are no longer just a couple of people coming into a store and either smashing display cases and grabbing the merchandise or flat-out grabbing merchandise off the shelves and running out. Now it is organized gangs of thieves conducting the robberies. They are believed to be part of criminal networks. Groups of thieves were busy on Black Friday scooping up merchandise in California and in Minnesota, too.
At least eight thieves stormed a Home Depot store in Lakewood on Black Friday and grabbed hammers, crowbars and sledgehammers in the tool section before dashing off in a getaway vehicle, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Four people who may have participated in the Home Depot theft were later arrested in Beverly Hills after officers stopped two cars that were part of a caravan of vehicles driving around the city’s business district, police Lt. Giovanni Trejo said. A bystander called police after seeing that some of the vehicles did not display license plates, he said.
Meantime, police in Los Angeles arrested three people suspected of storming a designer clothing store on Melrose Place after stopping a vehicle and seeing clothes in plain view, said LAPD Officer Mike Lopez. He said more than 10 people ransacked another store on La Brea Avenue.
The thefts are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit people to steal merchandise in stores throughout the country and then sell it online. Experts and law enforcement officials say the thefts are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season gets underway.
In Minnesota, Best Buy stores were targeted on Black Friday.
Dozens of looters descended on a mall in Minnesota and brazenly marched through two Best Buy locations, taking whatever they liked with them off the shelves.
One incident occurred near the Burnsville mall in suburban Minneapolis with about 12 people rushing in to steal items, while a second incident occurred in Maplewood – about 25 miles northeast – on Friday night with a larger group of 30 people looting electronics.
Both incidents occurred at around the same time and police are looking to see if they are connected in any way.
A county sheriff issued a brief statement, as did Best Buy.
‘We can’t tolerate that kind of behavior. Just as a society, we just can’t,’ Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said.
Best Buy issued a statement saying: ‘As an industry we are working with local law enforcement and taking additional security precautions where it makes sense.’
The thefts at Home Depot are worrisome to police because the thieves clear out whole sections of sledgehammers and hammers that are used to break glass display units in jewelery stores and other high-end products like electronics and cell phones. Some upscale stores that have been hit are now limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time.
These crimes committed in Democrat-run cities are aided to some extent by state laws on shoplifting. Proposition 47, for example in California, bars prosecutors from charging suspected shoplifters accused of stealing less than $950 worth of merchandise with felonies. As long as the thieves stay below that threshold, there isn’t much in the way of consequences to be worried about. How many pharmacies and drug store chains have seen groups of thieves come in and boldly walkout, loaded up with merchandise in California? We’ve seen plenty of those stories. Shoplifting at drug stores turns into organized groups stealing high-end clothing, jewelry, and electronics.
A new report issued by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition examines the rise in organized criminal activity targeting local retailers, as well as the economic impact on local retailers and communities. Retail employees are also affected by the rise in brazen criminal activity. Professional criminal rings are building business models to use and are able to take advantage of social media to resell the merchandise.
“Organized retail crime is more than petty shoplifting, and the economic impact has become alarming,” said Michael Hanson, Senior Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online thru marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook”
“The lack of transparency online has made it easy to hide behind a screen name and fake business information to peddle stolen products,” added Hanson. “Washington needs to establish a base level of transparency on e-commerce platforms to make it harder for criminal enterprises to operate in the shadows of the Internet.”
The Buy Safe America Coalition continues to lead efforts to address the growing problem of stolen merchandise sold online by urging Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act. This bipartisan measure would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers, making it difficult for retail theft rings to peddle stolen goods on leading e-commerce platforms. The House bill has also been endorsed by the Coalition to Protect America’s Small Sellers (PASS), a group of third-party marketplaces and e-commerce facilitators.
Both data and news stories from across the nation also paint an alarming picture of organized retail crime’s impact on frontline retail employees. Nearly 67 percent of asset protection managers at leading retailers surveyed report a moderate to considerable increase in organized retail crime, while over 86 percent said that an organized retail criminal has verbally threatened an associate with bodily harm.
“The impact on front line retail workers can no longer be ignored by policymakers,” said Ben Dugan, President of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR). “As these crimes have become more organized and brazen, they have also led to more violence against employees. These crimes are not just property crimes, they impact the safety of everyone in the store.”
Some attorneys general have come out in support of the INFORM Consumers Act, including in Georgia and New Mexico. These thefts add up to billion-dollar losses and the gangs of thieves are parts of organized crime. Sweeping legislation may not be the answer but something has to be done other than just pretending that this is just normal behavior and turning a blind eye to putting a stop to it.
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