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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is being criticized after she appeared to suggest that so-called “smash-and-grab” robberies, which have been on the increase across the country but especially in California, were not really occurring.
“A lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” the self-described Democratic socialist from New York said in an interview with The Washington Times last week.
“I believe it’s a Walgreens in California who cited it, but the data didn’t back it up,” she went on to claim.
Videos of the robberies have frequently gone viral on social media.
Ocasio-Cortez got a lot of pushback for her remarks, especially from GOP lawmakers but also from retailers that have been targeted by such robberies, including Walgreens.
“Organized retail crime is one of the top challenges facing” the company, Walgreens told the newspaper, adding that the incidents have “evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online.”
“I don’t know what data she is talking about,” noted Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill), Fox News reported.
“But you don’t really need much data from someplace in San Francisco or California. All you need to do is walk down the street to the CVS in Eastern Market,” he told the network, in reference to a part of Washington, D.C., located near the Capitol.
“I’ve seen on multiple occasions when I’ve been in there buying things, someone will come in and raid a shelf and walk out,” he said.
Other Republican lawmakers clapped back at “AOC” as well, including Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who described the Democrat’s remarks as “tone-deaf and offensive,” especially to the family of Kevin Nishita, an Oakland security guard and former San Jose police officer who was shot and killed last month while defending a news crew that was reporting on a smash-and-grab theft.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association also responded to the New York Democrat’s remarks.
“Respectfully, the Congresswoman has no idea what she is talking about. Both the data and stack of video evidence makes fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions,” said Jason Brewer, RILA senior executive vice president of communications, in an email to Fox News.
“If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that,” Brewer added.
The gang-like robberies have occurred in various cities around the country but appear to be a big, and worsening, problem in California. Police agencies and others have blamed the uptick in smash-and-grabs on Prop. 47, a measure passed in 2014 that dramatically raises the monetary threshold for treating such thefts as felonies.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has ripped local officials for failing to adequately prosecute smash-and-grab gangs.
“If people are breaking in, people stealing your property, they need to be arrested. Police need to arrest them. Prosecutors need to prosecute them. Judges need to hold people accountable for breaking the law,” Newsom said last week, according to CBS 13. “These are not victimless crimes, and I have no empathy for these criminal elements.”
The Democratic governor went on to call the crimes “unacceptable” and said that the thefts ought to be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or “stacked” into felony offenses for individuals who are repeatedly arrested for similar acts, even if what has been stolen is valued at less than the $950 monetary threshold established by Prop 47.
“I want to see local efforts. I want to see them stepped up,” Newsom said, going on to emphasize that California’s budget would “significantly increase our efforts to go after these retail rings.”
To that end, Newsom has increased California Highway Patrol presence along highways near retail centers. Most of the gang-style thefts are concentrated in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Critics, however, have lashed out at Prop 47 and other efforts by left-wing prosecutors to downplay or ignore criminal activity.
“When society removes accountability for bad behavior, criminals get emboldened to commit more crimes, drug addicts thumb their noses at mandatory treatment and vandalism and petty theft turn into riotous looting and murder,” Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, told Fox News last week.
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