'Strategic' well-orchestrated heists seen amid protest chaos

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FILE - In this May 30, 2020, file photo, women carry merchandise from a Union Square Victoria's Secret store in San Francisco. Police say many of the smash-and-grab thefts have been carried out by caravans of well-coordinated criminals that have coincided with or followed protests over the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

OAKLAND, Calif.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Police in a small San Francisco Bay Area community were about to help authorities in neighboring Oakland keep the peace during a protest when a more pressing crisis hit home: groups of thieves were pillaging malls, setting fire to a Walmart and storming a car dealership.

By the time San Leandro officers arrived at the Dodge dealership, dozens of cars were gone and thieves were peeling out of the lot in $100,000 Challenger Hellcat muscle cars. Nearly 75 vehicles were stolen Sunday, including models driven through glass showroom doors to escape.

“It was very strategic,” Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said about the auto thefts and other recent heists.

The brazen heist, carried out by well-coordinated criminals, was one of many thefts nationwide in the last week at big box electronics stores, jewelry shops and luxury designers. Many of the smash-and-grab thefts have happened during or following protests over the death of George Floyd, who struggled to breathe as his neck was pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer's knee.