Police say smash-and-grab robberies organized with Snapchat, other apps: report

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A photo taken on October 21, 2020 shows the logo of the multinational American Internet technology and services company, Google (center), the American online social media and social networking service, Facebook (Top R), Snapchat (Bottom R), Twitter (top L) and Instragram (bottom L) on a computer screen in Lille. (Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images)

(The Hill) – Police say that some of the smash-and-grab robberies that recently took place in California and Minnesota were organized on social media and were carried out by people who did not know each other.

Local law enforcement said robberies at a Bay Area Nordstrom, a San Francisco Louis Vuitton and at a Minneapolis Best Buy were all organized on social media, according to The Wall Street Journal.

For the people who took part in some of the incidents in California, Snapchat was used to organize the crimes as thieves were possibly attracted to the app’s ability to make messages disappear. Once law enforcement arrested some suspects, they at times did not know the names or have any information about the people with whom they were working, the Journal reported.

However, Rachel Racusen, a spokeswoman for Snap Inc., told the Journal that the company has not found evidence of such organizing on its platform, adding that promoting damaging property on the social media app would violate its terms of service.

“This isn’t ‘The Godfather’ by any stretch,” Steve Wagstaffe, the district attorney for San Mateo County, Calif., said to the Journal.

“It’s the modern version of ‘Hey, there’s a party tonight’ and suddenly you have 100 kids showing up.”

The Hill has reached out to Snapchat for comment. 

Investigators indicated that the robberies may have been timed around Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial. Rittenhouse was acquitted on Nov. 19 for charges surrounding him fatally shooting two people and injuring another during protests in Kenosha, Wis., last summer.

The investigators suspected that the thieves planned the robberies at a time when police would be preoccupied with possible protests over the verdict in that trial, the Journal noted.

At Monday’s White House press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki referenced the robberies. 

“We have seen an increase in crime over the course of the pandemic. There are a range of reasons for that and what our focus is on is what we can do to address it,” Psaki said, adding that the administration had proposed additional funding for local police and had “great concern” about the retail theft. 

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