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For evidence that crime will likely be a key issue for California voters in next year’s election, look no further than this weekend.
On Sunday, a pack of looters robbed a jewelry store in a Hayward mall, smashing glass cases and absconding with the valuables into waiting cars. Also Sunday, Walnut Creek police recommended that businesses close early, citing intelligence that the 80 thieves who ransacked a Nordstrom on Saturday night could strike again. Officials labeled the Nordstrom robbery as “organized retail theft” and said it was possibly linked to a series of burglaries in San Francisco on Friday night.
In San Francisco, social media videos showed masked looters sprinting out of high-end stores in Union Square — including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s — with arms full of stolen merchandise worth thousands of dollars. Police arrested eight suspects and seized two cars and two guns, while Mayor London Breed announced plans to restrict vehicle access to Union Square to limit thieves escaping in getaway cars.
- John Chachas, whose family owns luxury retailer Gump’s in Union Square: “The mayor and her entire team should resign. You can’t really run a retail enterprise if you have to board up the windows five weeks before the critical Christmas selling season.”
Adding to the city’s woes, the San Francisco Chronicle published a glut of stories over the weekend that suggest residents are increasingly frustrated by its response to crime — and fearful for their own safety. One resident’s garage was broken into nine times in two days; video surveillance footage showed the thief wandering around leisurely, as if “he had no fear of getting caught.” And San Francisco’s martial arts academies, locksmiths and home-security companies are seeing a huge increase in demand.
- Nestor Guardado, shop manager at Lock World: “People are freaking out.”
- Danny Zelig, CEO of self-defense company Tactica Krav Maga Institute: “There has been a big shift. People are coming here to literally defend themselves,” instead of to work out.
Meanwhile, a group of children, teachers and parents from the Tenderloin hand-delivered a letter to Breed’s secretary, calling on the mayor to “put an end” to neighborhood conditions that include an open-air fentanyl market, frequent gun violence and attempts to rob kids as young as 9. One of the city’s proposed solutions: opening a supervised drug injection site.
Adding to the spate of crime headlines, on Saturday a stray bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Pasadena boy playing video games in his bedroom.
- Neighbor Stewart Baynes: “We heard the sirens and knew that it was another shooting. It’s getting to be so damn ridiculous out here.”
The flurry of shoplifting and shootings could pose challenges for San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — a progressive prosecutor who’s facing a recall election in June and is being blamed for store closures — and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, whose controversial policies are the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine deep dive and driving a second attempt to recall him. The trends could also prove consequential in the 2022 elections, when voters will choose California’s next top cop.
The burglaries are yet another setback for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic and plug persistent staffing shortages. Although the Golden State’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in October as the state added 96,800 jobs, according to the Employment Development Department, California is still tied with Nevada for the highest jobless rate in the nation.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 4,758,297 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 73,000 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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Other stories you should know
1. Turpin case exposes state, local failures
California’s complex web of social services has come under scrutiny in the wake of a Friday ABC News special report on the 13 Turpin siblings, who were rescued in 2018 from the Riverside County home where their parents had subjected them to years of brutal torture and abuse. But prosecutors and advocates — along with several of the Turpin siblings — say that one set of horrors has been exchanged for another, as gaping holes in the county and state’s social safety nets collide with the secrecy of California’s strict conservatorship laws and sealed court records that effectively prevent any public scrutiny. Among the findings:
- The siblings — who, at the time of the rescue, ranged from ages 2 to 29 — have been prevented from accessing much of the $600,000 in private donations they received.
- The court-appointed public guardian overseeing the trust has rejected some of the siblings’ requests for financial assistance, limiting their access to food, health care, transportation, stable housing and education.
- The seven minor siblings were placed in foster homes overseen by an agency with a long history of alleged verbal and physical abuse. One of the families is facing criminal charges for allegedly mistreating several foster children, including one of the Turpins; five Turpin children lived in that home for three years while the alleged abuse took place.
“They’re living in squalor,” said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who prosecuted the Turpin parents. “That is unimaginable to me — that we could have the very worst case of child abuse that I’ve ever seen, and then that we would then not be able to get it together to give them basic needs.” The county has ordered an independent investigation into how its public guardian’s office handled the Turpin case, with the findings slated to be released in March.
2. Supply snarls imperil medical supplies
Eighteen-month-old Henry Genung has a rare genetic mutation that requires a rubber tracheostomy tube to help him breathe. The tube is supposed to be replaced weekly to minimize the risk of infection — but Henry’s parents haven’t been able to get a new one in months due to a medical supply shortage stemming from a logjam of ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. The shortages are driving inflation rates and health care costs up, which experts say will likely result in higher premiums and limited coverage for California’s poorest residents. To make matters worse, federal and state leaders’ attempts to prioritize the movement of health care goods are being hampered by a lack of data: Not only does no one know how many ships are carrying medical supplies, but the contents of specific containers themselves are also frequently unknown, CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang reports.
Speaking of bottlenecks, understaffed California airports are bracing for a massive surge in travelers as Thanksgiving approaches, with LAX and most Bay Area airports expected to serve twice as many people as they did last year. “We’re seeing demand at levels that are at, or close to, before COVID. But airlines are still down tens of thousands of fewer employees as an industry,” Henry Harteveldt, president of the Atmosphere Research Group, told the Mercury News. Experts say travelers should prepare for delays at each step of their journey: Taxi drivers servicing Mineta San Jose International Airport, for example, are preparing to strike through Thanksgiving over a conflict with the airport’s new taxi dispatch contractor. And Californians traveling by car will face their own challenges — namely, soaring gas prices that saw the price of a gallon tip past $6 in remote Mono County.
3. California environment update
At the risk of making the same play on words twice, here’s a California earth, wind, fire and water update:
- Earth: As much as 5% of the world’s population of giant sequoia trees was lost in California wildfires this summer, according to data released Friday by the Giant Sequoia Coalition. That’s on top of 14% killed in last year’s fires. “The numbers paint a grim future for these natural treasures unless immediate action is taken,” said Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League.
- Wind: Much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties will be under a red flag warning today as gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity sweep across Southern California, bringing increased fire risk.
- Fire: The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to conceal messages between its outgoing president and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office regarding the state’s financial bailout of PG&E after the utility was convicted of 85 felonies for sparking the 2018 Camp Fire.
- Water: Authorities determined that an oil sheen spotted Saturday near the site of last month’s oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach was caused by a small leak in the damaged section of the pipeline. The leak was contained on Sunday. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard designated a ship named Beijing as the second party of interest in the oil spill, about a month after another vessel, the MSC Danit, was placed under investigation. And as California’s drought persists, San Francisco is preparing to ask its residents and suburban customers to slash water use.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: We still don’t know whether California’s plan to close the achievement gap in public schools is working.
Billions in wildfire funding just a down payment: Nearly half of the money the state provided this year was one-time funding — but large annual investments are needed for the foreseeable future, argues Stacy Corless of the Rural County Representatives of California.
A model for tackling climate change: Something remarkable is happening in the San Fernando Valley communities of Pacoima and Sun Valley: a little-known state program called Transformative Climate Communities, write Emi Wang of The Greenlining Institute and Dora Frietze-Armenta of Pacoima Beautiful.
Other things worth your time
Editorial: California lawmakers wine and dine with lobbyists in Maui. Why is this legal? // Los Angeles Times
Out legislator’s mysterious removal from committee post draws condemnation. // LGBTQ Nation
California governor pardons 2 in Native American recognition. // Associated Press
Outgoing Rep. Jackie Speier’s idea for how to fix Washington: mandatory retirement at 75. // San Francisco Chronicle
How women took leadership roles in California protests against masks, vaccines. // Sacramento Bee
Mayor offers to forgive a $26.6 million loan to the school district — with conditions. // San Francisco Chronicle
Alameda County could intervene in Oakland Unified over budget concerns. // The Oaklandside
SEIU Local 1000 president posts credit card statements online. // Sacramento Bee
Audits, internal documents show problems with security, test errors at San Diego crime lab. // San Diego Union-Tribune
It’s the last California jail used by ICE. And he’s the only immigrant detainee inside it. // San Francisco Chronicle
Protesters ask to rename Squaw Valley community. // CalMatters
A Black art gallery owner in South LA grapples with gentrification. // Los Angeles Times
California housing ‘affordability gap’ near pre-crash levels. // Mercury News
Californians flee the coast to inland cities in a mass pandemic-era exodus. // Wall Street Journal
The newest Texans are not who you think they are. // Texas Monthly
San Diego highway cash spill: Police order drivers to return money or risk charges. // Washington Post
See you tomorrow.
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