Amid a wave of violent crime and mass looting, progressive mayors are abandoning the dream of defunding police departments.

Hennepin County Sheriffs Officers patrol outside the Nordstrom Rack and IDS Center in Minneapolis after looting and vandalism on August 27th, 2020. (Chad Davis)

In Chicago, one Nordstrom was hit by a smash-and-grab mob twice in one day. A North Face store on Michigan Avenue was hit two days in a row.

Elsewhere in the city, $2 million dollars in high-end watches were stolen in another smash-and-grab, as was $20,000 in winter coats from Moose Knuckles and thousands from a Nike store.

In San Francisco, it’s the same story, told again and again; a large group of masked people arrive at a retail store, smash their way in, grab everything in sight and run before police or anyone else can respond.

Everywhere San Franciscans look this holiday season, its smashed and boarded-up storefronts, broken-out car windows, and worse.

In Minneapolis, a similar pattern is repeating. Progressive city council members, even the most supportive of defunding the police in 2020, have all changed their tune. These days, progressives on the city council can’t seem to fund the Minneapolis Police Department fast enough.

Anything to stop the burgeoning crime wave in Minneapolis.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s long and contentious relationship with other city leaders, recently laid bare again in yet another leak of private messages and/or internal communications obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, shows no sign on improvement.

The city its wealthiest citizen recently likened to “Afghanistan on a good day,” has gotten so dangerous, corporations are considering moving headquarters. They can’t attract top talent if no one wants to move to Chicago.

Mayor Lightfoot recently came under a fresh barrage of criticism this week after she blamed the high-profile looting events on the merchants experiencing the thefts.

“I’m disappointed that they’re not doing more to take safety and make it a priority,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a crime summit on Monday. “For example, we still have retailers that won’t institute measures like having security officers in their stores, making sure that they’ve got cameras that are actually operational. Locking up their merchandise at night, chaining high-end bags. These purses seem to be something that is attracting a lot of organized retail theft units.”

Expecting retailers along the Magnificent Mile, and elsewhere in the city, to do their part to prevent theft is one thing. Doing so is certainly in the best interest of these businesses. If retailers can’t manage to control theft, they can’t stay in business, a functional city government notwithstanding.

Too much shrinkage- that is merchandise lost due to theft by employees or customers- and prices have to be raised too much to both compensate for the losses and make a profit. Too many insurance claims after too many break-ins, no more commercial insurance.

What Mayor Lightfoot is trying to do in this case is much more than ask businesses to be responsible for securing their merchandise properly.

She is asking them to prevent theft, rather than counting on local authorities, police officers and Lightfoot’s city government to deter crime.

Careful observers might note that this is A.) impossible for retail merchants to do, as much as they’d like to; B.) an unfair thing to ask, C.) potentially dangerous; and D.) victim blaming.

First and foremost, not every store is Tiffany’s: Not every merchant in Chicago can afford private security guards. Nor is that a good idea.

What happens when- not if- one of these guards shoots and kills a would-be robber, or worse and more likely, an innocent bystander?

The best people working security in Chicago are Chicago Police Officers. For the most part, everyone else working security is the B team. So Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s answer to crime in Chicago, now that the A team is failing and being failed by the city’s governors, is to send in the B team, guns blazing.

There are also the employees of these retail stores to consider. Many have already been assaulted during smash and grab robberies perpetrated by huge mobs of people. It’s only a matter of time before someone is badly hurt, even killed.

Employees who try to interfere with these robberies- like security guards- are the most likely to fall into this category, but not forever.

The longer these crimes go unpunished, the worse it is going to get. Right now, Chicago and San Francisco might be getting teenagers organizing shoplifting parties on Facebook.

Soon, the high-return, low-risk prospect of cleaning out a Nordstrom will draw a more sinister brand of violent career criminals, not to mention organized crime.

Right now, thieves are taking only merchandise. What’s to stop them from taking people?

Beleaguered city leaders seem anxious to endanger retail employees even further by proposing ludicrous measures like alarm bars that shut in the instance of a mass looting incident, trapping the perpetrators inside with their victims.

Any first-year student of criminology, along with any bank teller, could tell city leaders why this is a terrible idea.

There are few crimes the U.S. government takes more seriously than bank robbery. Rob a convenience store, you might get away with it. Rob a bank and they will find you. The FBI investigates bank robberies and banks take all sorts of precautions to deter would-be thieves and catch anyone stupid enough to try it.

There are sequential serial numbers on the money, time-lock safes, dye-packs that explode in a cloud of acrid chemical irritant and bright dye, leaving a trail it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to follow.

Local police departments have very specific instructions on how to respond in the event of a bank robbery. Almost everyone working at a bank has a little, unobtrusive panic button; under their desk, at their teller station, in the manager’s office. In the event any employee pushes that button, police cars will be dispatched with lights but no sirens.

This is because hearing a siren would alert the bank robber of two facts: 1.) someone pulled the alarm and 2.) the police are on their way.

Police and the FBI know- from long experience- that the absolute worst case scenario in a bank robbery would be for a desperate, armed robber to barricade himself inside the bank with hostages. As such, authorities who respond to a bank robbery are trained to stay well out of sight until the perpetrator is clear of the door.

Bank employees are trained to do one thing immediately after the bank robber leaves the bank: Lock the door.

That may seem counterintuitive; it’s not.

If the criminal sees police, they may try to run back into the bank.

Why would city leaders want to lock desperate, cornered criminals in with their victims?

An army of private security guards couldn’t keep the cities of Chicago and San Fransico safe from criminality and violence. Blaming merchants for their losses won’t work, either.

It might if retail theft was Chicago’s worst problem. But it isn’t.

800 people have been murdered this year in Chicago, which is as near a record-setting number as to make no matter. Does Lightfoot blame those victims, too?

Chicago is bleeding.

Private security guards, a crack-down on online marketplaces for retail goods; all these half-measures are a farce. None of them confronts the real driving forces behind this crime wave: Leniency on crime.

The world experienced COVID-19; the world is not experiencing a crime wave. 12 U.S. cities are.

Examining what has gone so terribly wrong in these specific cities is something progressive lawmakers aren’t anxious to do. Unless and until they do it, however, crime in Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis and elsewhere are going to continue to get worse.

Even now, organized retail theft teams are planning their next heist; each one will push a little further than the last. How far are city leaders willing to let things go?

Already, it is going to take areas blighted by this crime wave years to recover. The longer progressive mayors wait to make a change, the more unlivable their cities will become.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)