- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 23, 2021

OPINION:

The Democrats’ list of adversaries has a new member.

The list goes from former President Donald Trump to climate change to now — retailers. Criminals once made the list, but not today.


Retailers are fairly important to America’s free enterprise, consumer-dictated economy. Retail sales ring up two-thirds of America’s $21 trillion Gross Domestic Product, also making them handy during Christmas.

For months, they have been under assault by organized hooded mobs of “smash and grab” thieves. They tear stores apart with sledgehammers and stuff merchandise into SUVs. The euphemism is: “shoplifting.”

Unfortunately, there are few police.

In the olden days, Democrats would condemn such lawlessness. But that was your father’s party. The summer of George Floyd and its protests against his murder by police gave us a hint of where this was headed. But few Democrats condemned the arson and looting. Urban Democrats called for a double whammy: more unrest and fewer police.

This is the woke era. An American clearance sale. Everything must go.

The mass stealing sees Democrats going deeper into an indifference toward crime unless the police report is dated Jan. 6. Some Democrats have implied that retailers are liars, cowards, complacent and technically challenged.

In San Francisco, the birthplace of “smash and grab,” Mayor London Breed showed promise. In September, as thieves continued stealing, she declared, “We are better than this. … There has to be consequences because we can’t continue to allow what we see as lawlessness continue to dominate our city.”

Going by recent videos, the lawlessness is winning. How did Ms. Breed respond? Sympathy? Condemn the criminals? No. Ms. Breed blamed the victim. In the case of Walgreens, shuttering five criminal-depleted outlets was done, she said because the drugstore chain was already losing revenue. It is “saturated” in her town.

Like Ms. Breed, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Dean E. Preston suggested Walgreens was lying.

“So is Walgreens closing stores because of theft or because of a preexisting business plan to cut costs and increase profits?” he asked.

Walgreens rejected the allegation. 

“Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco. Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco.”

Ms. Breed, after viewing months of rampant shoplifting, seemed to realize her once-glorious city was in danger of becoming an urban wasteland. On Dec. 16, she announced a police crackdown.

“It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,” she said.

California often sets cultural trends for the rest of us. In Chicago, shelf-raiding threatened to force closure of glitzy Michigan Avenue. The windy city is ruled by “wokes” — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County top prosecutor Kim Fox.

Ms. Lightfoot runs the city by ideology, meaning that when mass theft arrived, she also blamed the victims, saying, “We also got to push retailers. … I’m disappointed that they are not doing more to take safety and make it a priority.”

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the House’s most prominent socialist, doubted the “smash and grab” phenomenon existed.

“We have to talk about specifics because … we’re actually seeing a lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” she told The Washington Times. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki blamed the looting on the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new wave of 2021 destruction prompted the left to debate not the right and wrong but the label. Is the word “looting” racist? Lorenzo Boyd, a criminal justice professor at the University of New Haven, said: “Looting is a term that we typically use when people of color or urban dwellers are doing something. We tend not to use that term for other people when they do the exact same thing.”

Never mind the small business owners or the trauma felt by their employees just when retailers are scratching to find willing workers.

The Washington Times spoke with Oleg Pilipenko, owner of Katie O’Brien’s neighborhood sports bar in Portland, Oregon. The scarred, burnt city is the birthplace of Antifa, the violent hard-left destructors who riot almost nightly and want an end to America. Mr. Pilipenko recalled that his most recent in a series of thefts was not high enough on a priority list for cops to show up. 

Portland, Mr. Pilipenko says, is the “wild, wild west.”

“I mean, right now, we can’t even walk in the city ’cause it’s not safe,” Mr. Pilipenko said. “It’s a lawless city. … This is how people feel now: Because there is no law on the street, you don’t have to follow the law.”

There might be a connection in lawless America to Democratic prosecutors in urban terrains such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Their campaigns were all funded by the same billionaire leftist — George Soros — who also gives money to defund the police and open borders advocates.

Defunding the police is just one priority. Easy bail and dropped charges are others. Californians in 2014 voted to approve Proposition 47, the “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Stealing goods valued below $950 were downgraded to a wrist-slap misdemeanor.

A “smash and grab” crook might actually think: What do I have to lose?

• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.


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