Thieves target Nordstrom, other stores in four Bay Area cities in weekend spree

Crowds of people vandalized and looted San Francisco’s Union Square, while about 80 people stole merchandise from a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek

San Francisco’s Union Square and Nordstrom store at 1200 Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek (Wikimedia, Google Maps)
San Francisco’s Union Square and Nordstrom store at 1200 Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek (Wikimedia, Google Maps)

Brazen thieves targeted stores in four Bay Area cities, including a Walnut Creek Nordstrom, in a three-day spree that forced officials to restrict access to San Francisco’s Union Square.

Crowds looted and vandalized Union Square, San Francisco’s retail center, on Friday night, burglarizing Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Maxford’s Jewelry, and other high-end brands, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. They also hit cannabis dispensaries around the city Friday night, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at a news conference on Saturday.

Police arrested eight suspects, all young adults, and Scott said he’s confident more arrests will follow as authorities review video footage. While police officers stopped thefts at local Fendi and Hermes stores and recovered thousands of dollars of merchandise, the total amount of damage is still under investigation, the Chronicle reported.

“What you saw last night was horrible,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at a news conference on Saturday. “We can’t allow that to happen. If you come to our city to commit these types of crimes, you will be held accountable.”

The chaotic scenes at Union Square came a week before Black Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, and will likely fuel concern that San Francisco can’t control retail theft. Walgreens, whose Market Street location was also hit on Friday, said last month that it will close five San Francisco stores by the end of November, citing what it described as rising “organized retail crime.” The Market Street store isn’t one of them.

Target, meantime, said earlier this year that it would temporarily reduce store hours in six San Francisco locations, citing a “significant and alarming rise in theft and security incidents.”

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The thefts were another blow to Union Square, which lost DSW, Marshalls, H&M, and Uniqlo during the pandemic. Its 14.5-percent vacancy rate is up 3.5 percent from the previous year, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial brokerage firm, and the Chronicle.

Some reasons for optimism remain: High-end restaurant Chotto Matte will open its first West Coast outpost sometime next year, and two other eateries opened last quarter. More new tenants are on the way that haven’t yet been announced, Cushman’s Kazuko Morgan told the Chronicle.

Over the weekend, groups of thieves also hit a Nordstrom department store in Walnut Creek in the East Bay, a jewelry store in Hayward’s Southland Mall and a Lululemon outpost in San Jose’s Santana Row.

About 80 people stormed the Nordstrom on Saturday in what Walnut Creek police called a “planned event.” As of Sunday, police had arrested three people in connection with that robbery, which involved about two dozen cars used as getaway vehicles, many with their license plates covered, Lt. Holley Connors told the Chronicle.

San Francisco police are looking into possible links between the Walnut Creek and Union Square heists. Representatives for San Jose’s and Hayward’s police departments said they didn’t have information on ties between the burglaries in those cities and the ones in San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

[San Francisco Chronicle] — Matthew Niksa