On Wednesday, the Walnut Creek City Council will hold a special meeting to receive an update on the coordinated shoplifting attack on Nordstrom Nov. 20, to review its options and to announce its response. On the table are plans for more police officers, more camera coverage and the possible deployment of a tethered camera drone capable of hovering over the downtown area for days at a time. Council members will also discuss sending letters seeking additional resources to prevent and address future organized retail thefts and other types of criminal activity to local leaders and legislators.
Here is the staff Report:
During the evening of Saturday, November 20, 2021, approximately 90 people simultaneously raided the Nordstrom store located at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. This was an organized activity, which resulted in $125,000 of stolen merchandise and damage and the injury of four employees- three of whom were assaulted and one who was pepper-sprayed. The purpose of this City Council meeting is for the Council and public to receive an update regarding the events of that evening, including the City’s response that night and the following day, and the Police Department’s and City Staff’s plans going forward.
In addition, the Council is being asked to authorize and send letters expressing the City’s concerns and requests to the State Legislators who represent the residents of Walnut Creek and to Governor Newsom. Lastly, your Council is requested to authorize additional resources to help prevent and address potential future organized retail thefts and other similar types of criminal activity.
- Receive an update regarding the organized retail theft that occurred during the evening of November 20, 2021.
- Authorize and send letters to Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Assembly member Tim Grayson, State Steve Senator Glazer, and Governor Gavin Newsom.
- Authorize the additional resources noted in this report and in the attached resolution in order to help prevent and address potential future organized retail thefts and other similar types of criminal activity
Summary of Event
Shortly before 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 20 while the store was open and customers were present, approximately 25 vehicles containing approximately 90 people arrived simultaneously outside of the Nordstrom store located at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. In a coordinated effort, the individuals simultaneously stormed into the store through the north, northwest, and southwest doors and stole approximately $100,000 of merchandise and did $25,000 of damage to the facility.
In addition, two employees were physically assaulted, one was pepper-sprayed, and another was assaulted with a knife (brandishing). Per video footage from Nordstrom, the perpetrators were in the building for one minute and then quickly fled the scene in their vehicles.
Three arrests were made that evening and charges have been filed. An active investigation is underway in order to make additional arrests. It is worth noting that the attack on Walnut Creek was one of many over that weekend with San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, San Jose, and Pleasanton also being targeted.
We are partnering with these cities and others in the region and our Police Chief has been in direct contact with the FBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Office, the CA Highway Patrol, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center. The Contra Costa County District Attorney announced that charges are being filed against the three individuals including conspiracy to commit a crime, second degree robbery, organized retail theft, possession of a firearm by a felon, and receiving stolen property with a value exceeding $950. Enhanced charges are being pursued for use of a firearm.
Our Walnut Creek Police Chief and staff will provide a more detailed update regarding the sequence of events and the City’s response that evening, our collective actions the following day,
and planned next steps.
Letters to Governor Newsom, State Legislators, and Contra Costa County District Attorney
Our Walnut Creek Police Department (WCPD) made three arrests at the scene the evening the crimes occurred. WCPD is investigating this case with vigor in order to make as many arrests as possible. With that in mind, a police department is only one part of the criminal justice system and we must rely on our partners in the region and at the State level to do their part in order to ensure that justice is served.
The attached letters are intended to encourage the District Attorney to prosecute those arrested to the full extent of the law and request our State lawmakers to ensure that appropriate legislation is in effect to help deter these types of dangerous attacks on businesses, cities, employees, residents, and visitors. Lastly, the Governor announced additional State resources would be made available to local jurisdictions to help combat these types of criminal activities. The City of Walnut Creek encourages the Governor to use the full force of his office and authority to ensure this support is provided. Note that the letter to the District Attorney was sent November 24 and is included as a reference.
The letters to the Legislators and Governor have not been sent and are recommended for the Council’s approval
Allocation of Additional Resources
In order to help deter future organized thefts and other types of crime downtown and throughout the City, it is recommended the Council approve the attached resolution and budget adjustments to add the following resources:
- Authorize the hiring of five additional Police Officer positions in order to create an additional beat focused on downtown. Even prior to this organized retail theft event, we have experienced an uptick in visible crimes downtown as activity and nightlife have increased now that many of the pandemic induced restrictions have been lifted. It is recommended that these positions be authorized through June 30, 2023 (end of FY 2023). These positions would be re-evaluated as part of the FY 24 & FY 25 budget cycle.
- Increase the Police Department overtime budget in order to immediately increase our police
presence downtown and at other high risk areas. It is recommended the additional overtime be authorized through June 30, 2022 and revisited at that time.
- Allocate $215,000 for additional security cameras to be placed in high risk areas and to make upgrades to existing cameras as warranted. The additional cameras may or may not deter crime, but they will aid in the investigation process.
- Allocate $35,000 for a Tether Drone to better monitor emergent or potentially emergent situations. A Tether Drone is affixed to a cord that allows the drone to fly over 100 feet in the air without an operator. Additionally, the cord provides power, which allows the drone to operate continuously for several days if needed. By comparison, our existing two drones require operators and have a battery life of a few hours
The City was allocated $8.3 million of Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and approximately $4 million has not been spent or allocated. It is recommended a portion of the funds be used for the recommendations previously noted in the following amounts:
- The annual cost for the five Police Officers is approximately $1 million. If the positions are authorized through June 30, 2023 as recommended, the total cost would be $1.6 million. In actuality, the cost will be less than this amount as it will take time to recruit and fill the positions. This approach could result in one-time funds being used for potential ongoing costs, which is potentially out of alignment with the City’s one-time funding policy. With that in mind, this recommendation is being made as a result of criminal activity and an emergency situation. Additionally, the positions are recommended for 1.5 years and would be revisited as part of the FY 24 & FY 25 budget cycle in order to determine the need at that time in conjunction with other budget considerations.
- It is recommended that $130,000 be allocated for Police patrol overtime in order to support two, eight hour shifts, three days a week (Fri, Sat, Sun) through June 30, 2022. This augmentation would result in an additional 1,440 hours of patrol. This amount is a one-time cost.
- The $215,000 for additional security cameras and enhancements is a one-time cost.
- The $35,000 for a Tether Drone is a one-time cost.
In total, it is recommend that approximately $2 million of the remaining ARPA funds be allocated to support these four recommendations. These are one-time costs, recognizing that the additional police officer positions and associated costs could be ongoing, should they later be extended beyond June 30, 2023. These actions would result in $2 million of remaining ARPA funds being available for future consideration.