Bay Area Apple Stores Targeted By Grab-and-Go Thieves
By Ethan Baron. Updated December 05, 2016.
If the four thieves hadn't gotten jammed up at the door on their way out of the Apple store with all their loot, they would've matched the speed of a very similar heist at the same San Francisco shop four days earlier.
That one took 11 seconds.
And it appears both grab-and-go incidents were part of a Bay Area crime wave underway by a group of young men prone to wearing hoodies as they sweep up tens of thousands of dollars worth of electronics while customers and salespeople look on.
San Francisco police have released video from inside the Chestnut Street shop on the evenings the thefts occurred, calling the crimes retail grand theft.
The first video, from Nov. 25 -- shopping extravaganza Black Friday -- opens with a half dozen shoppers and an equal number of salespeople in the front portion of the store at 5:40 p.m.. Three young men in hoodies come in, take a few steps then start running around snatching devices that appear to be mostly iPhones from two nearby tables and along a counter.
The young men work so fast they don't even appear to stow much of the loot, instead gathering it in their hands and arms as they rip more devices from their moorings. The employees look on.
The video from Nov. 29 opens with just one customer and two salespeople at the front of the shop, when four thieves, again in hoodies, come through the door. This time, the iPhone bandits hit the floor running, grabbing devices off the same two tables and counter area.
One employee escorts the customer toward the rear of the shop, while another two approach the phone filchers as they're heading out, one of the employees making a shooing motion.
The first thief to hit the doors has some problem, perhaps of the "push-don't-pull" variety, and the other three pile up behind before they burst onto the sidewalk. So this time, it's 12 seconds from start to finish.
Reports suggest the thefts are the work of a group which has proven itself capable of violence. On Wednesday, thieves hit an Apple store in downtown Burlingame at around 7:45 p.m., KTVU reported.
Police said six to 10 young men in hoodies took about 45 seconds to steal $20,000 in iPads and iPhones off tables, according to KTVU. The thieves pushed two security guards to the floor and tried but failed to steal a gun from one of them, the station reported.
It was the third time the same store had been struck in the past month, the station reported.
And there have been 11 such crimes by young men in hoodies in Apple stores in the Bay Area since late October, according to KTVU. There was another in San Francisco -- the Stockton Street shop was hit the same night as the second theft at the Chestnut Street store -- plus three in Berkeley in one week, another two in Burlingame, one in Los Gatos and one in Corte Madera on Black Friday.
Investigators believe the thefts are the work of the same group, and that after the manhandling of security guards and attempted gun theft in the latest incident, in Burlingame, they're worried the men may be "escalating," according to KTVU.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request from SiliconBeat for comment. A company spokesman told KTVU Apple did not discuss security matters.
After the Berkeley thefts, a woman wrote on the Nextdoor neighborhood-news forum that an employee at the store had been left stressed and fearful that his life was in danger, news website Berkeleyside reported.
In one of the Berkeley thefts, the criminals wore ski masks, a woman told Berkeleyside. "I felt like I was in a ninja movie," said the woman, who was not identified. "It was so stealthy and so well planned.
"I love the Berkeley store but after this experience I may have to go somewhere else unless they do something about this. It was scary."
Laptops were among the items stolen in the one-minute stealing spree, she said.
In one of the thefts at the Berkeley store, which is in the Fourth Street shopping district, about 50 devices were stolen, and some 20 were taken in another of the incidents, according to Berkeleyside.
A uniformed police officer is now posted at the Berkeley shop seven days a week, KTVU reported. Burlingame police told KTVU they would meet with Apple officials to discuss having the company pay for an officer to patrol the store.
In the 1:45 p.m. theft at the Village of Corte Madera mall, thieves stole $35,000 to $40,000 worth of iPhones and laptops, the Marin Independent Journal reported.