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The Looting of Apple: How California Lost Control of Retail Thieves

The word is out in California: feel free to rob any Apple Store you want. And feel free to do it right next to a police car. 

A video posted on the social media site X earlier today shows a man violently grabbing and smashing dozens of iPads and iPhones from the display counters at a California Apple Store. The suspect seen in the video is black and wearing a face mask, black hoodie, and black pants. At the end of the video, he stuffs several devices into his pants and walks out the door, right past an unattended, parked police car. During the robbery, other customers and store videos stood back and watched.

Last month, two different sets of criminals robbed the same Apple Store near the University of California, Berkeley, within a 24-hour period. In the first theft, a male suspect in his 20s stole nine phones and was later arrested. In the second theft, two male suspects between the ages of 18 and 20 stole seven computers and fled on foot. The Berkeley Apple Store has been a popular target for thieves, with several robberies reported in the past two months.

Earlier this week, CBS News reported that police in San Francisco are searching for six suspects involved in an armed robbery at a store in the Sunset District. The suspects entered the store, and one of them tried to open the cash register, but the victim refused. The suspect then threatened the victim with a cold metal object before the victim was able to escape. Meanwhile, the other five suspects stole numerous high-value items from the store.

Busted: The Million-Dollar Organized Theft Ring

A year ago, a California Highway Patrol special task force arrested eight people involved in an organized retail theft ring targeting primarily Apple store locations. The group stole over $1 million in goods. In a news conference, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the arrests and charges against eight individuals involved in the statewide organized retail theft operation targeting Apple Store locations.

“Today’s announcement should serve as yet another warning to those who engage in criminal activity. We are watching you, and we are holding you accountable,” Bonta said.

The theft operation resulted in a total loss of approximately $1 million and occurred between August 2022 and January 2023. Suspects would enter stores, hold back employees and customers, and steal retail items, including phones and tablets. The California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies were involved in apprehending the suspects. The suspects face multiple felony charges, including conspiracy to commit retail theft and grand theft.

A California Chronology of Apple Store Robberies

Berkeley, December 2023: Thieves grabbed more than 40 cell phones from the Apple Store. Watch the news clip here.

Burlingame, October 2023: Five criminals walked into the Apple Store and stole over $100,000 worth of merchandise, according to KRON Channel 4.

Berkeley, May 2023: Four suspects walked into the Berkeley Apple store on Fourth St. and started stealing. Watch the news clip here.

Palo Alto, December 2022: Thieves “brazenly robbing an Apple Store in broad daylight on Black Friday.” Watch the video here.

Temecula, December 2021: An individual stole $18,000 worth of phones from the Apple Store, The Mercury News reported.

Corte Madera, August 2018: ABC7 News obtained video showing a daring Apple Store robbery in Corte Madera where the suspects got away with about $19,000 worth of electronics.

San Francisco, 2016: Multiple San Francisco Apple stores were hit by robbers, stealing a reported hundred thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise. CNBC posted a video on YouTube captioned “Watch an Apple store get robbed in 12 seconds.”

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Photo: GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 26: People walk past the Apple store in the Americana at Brand shopping center on the day after Christmas on December 26, 2023 in Glendale, California. U.S. retail sales rose 3.1 percent year over year this holiday season, based on in-store and online purchases, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)