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Retail theft targeted in eight-month investigation

Everything from Louis Vuitton bags, name brand fragrances, Gucci belts, to even packages of deodorant, were all on display on Thursday at the San Francisco Police Department headquarters as part of an eight-month long investigation of retail theft from department stores and from individuals.

San Francisco police, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol, participated in “Operation Wrecking Ball,” to end a criminal scheme of group criminals stealing from stores and fencing the stolen products from state to state.

On Dec. 5, about 80 different law enforcement officers conducted seven search warrants in The city and one in Daly City at residencies and storage facilities and found $300,000 worth of stolen property, including $16,000 in cash and 46 cellphones, police officials said.

There were 12 arrests when officers conducted the search warrants.

Police Chief Bill Scott said some of the stolen items were fenced around United Nations Plaza at Seventh and Market streets:

“For the past eight months, we have conducted investigations in undercover surveillance of retail theft and fencing of stolen items.”

The stolen property, mostly from retail stores in downtown San Francisco, would exchange hands at UN Plaza with other people who then try to sell the items in the Bay Area, state or even out of state.

Scott added the investigation led them to Los Angeles, Seattle and Houston.

District Attorney George Gascon said retail theft is done by a small number of people:

“The only way we can bring this crime down is doing the kind of work we are seeing today. It’s targeting those individuals that are responsible for the majority of the crimes.”

Frank Carrubba with the District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit said the thefts are usually done by people in “ambush-style” theft where people will take as many items as possible from retailers and then fencing the products all over the United States using eBay and flea markets.

CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ernie Sanchez said the CHP will provide resources, especially when stolen goods are being moved from state to state using vehicles like commercial trucks, saying officers will be more alert when inspecting vehicles that have items of value:

“California Highway Patrol is just one arm of law enforcement that will work with the locals and by working together, we’ll know when an operation is moving from one part from the state of California to another.”

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