A group of nine criminals made of with a small fortune when they rushed into an East Bay, California jewelry store and grabbed all of the diamonds they could get their hands on.
The brazen robbery highlights a massive crime problem which has emerged in the San Francisco area, where local officials have effectively legalized shoplifting.
Shoplifting gangs like this one have become prominent in several American cities over past year.
Nine masked men with hammers clear out jewelry store
The suspects barged into the Iceberg Diamonds store at around 7 p.m. on November 15 as employees were preparing to close the store for the night.
The store is located in a shopping mall and customers who could not directly see what was happening thought that they were hearing gunshots coming from the jewelry store.
In fact, they were hearing the suspects bashing open glass cases with hammers to quickly gain access to the diamonds before police could arrive.
All of the criminals were apparently equipped with hammers, which they brandished at employees when they were not actively smashing glass cases.
All had their faces masked and none have been identified so far. All of the suspects were able to escape long before police arrived on the scene.
The entire incident was over in only a few minutes, leaving the helpless employees to clean up a store filled with little more than shards of broken glass.
Criminals operate freely in San Francisco area
San Francisco has embraced a policy of not charging shoplifters with felonies as long as the total value of the goods they take from a store is under $950.
The intention was to lower incarceration rates, which is a major liberal rallying cry nationwide. In actuality San Francisco and the surrounding area are now learning that there is a good reason for locking up thieves.
Stores in the area have been devastated by shoplifting since the lenient policy was enacted. As in the case of this jewelry store, suspects are simply strolling in and taking what they want.
Employees and security guards are aware that they will likely be the ones punished if they intervene to stop the crime; most stores would prefer to collect on their insurance than risk legal troubles if an employee stops a crime in progress.
The problem is that if this keeps happening it will quickly become financially unviable to operate or insure a store in the San Francisco area or in any other city which has allowed these shoplifting gangs to flourish.
Local citizens will ultimately be the ones harmed by this lenience for criminals as their communities are gradually emptied of businesses and thus access to goods and jobs.