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‘Experts’ slammed for saying California crime spree isn’t ‘looting’

Police and law enforcement experts in California are arguing that the term “looting” shouldn’t be used to describe the recent large-scale thefts in California because it has racial connotations.

Despite dozens of stores and businesses across California being ransacked over the weekend in a brazen crime spree, some authorities seem more concerned over language, insisting it should be described as “organized robberies” instead.

According to a report Tuesday by local ABC affiliate KGO, the large-scale thefts seen over the weekend aren’t considered looting under the California Penal Code.

“The penal code defines looting as ‘theft or burglary…during a ‘state of emergency,’ ‘local emergency,’ or ‘evacuation order’ resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot or other natural or manmade disaster’,” the report said.

Sergeant Christian Camarillo, public information officer for San Jose Police, addresses the incidents earlier this week.
ABC7 News

The outlet then quoted two experts who suggested the term looting had racial connotations.

Lorenzo Boyd, a criminal justice professor at the University of New Haven, said: “Looting is a term that we typically use when people of color or urban dwellers are doing something. We tend not to use that term for other people when they do the exact same thing.”

Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute of Journalism Education, added: “This seems like it’s an organized smash and grab robbery. This doesn’t seem like looting.”

The boarded-up Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco.
The Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco’s Union Square was among those ransacked.

Some of the brazens thefts over the weekend were captured on video, including one where dozens of robbers raided a Nordstrom store just outside San Francisco late Saturday — stealing thousands of dollars worth of goods and assaulting several employees.

A Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco was also targeted Saturday, and an estimated $40,000 worth of items were stolen from a Lululemon store in San Jose on Sunday night.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott immediately declared it looting, but San Jose Police spokesman Sergeant Christian Camarillo shied away from the term.

ABC7's tweet about the language debate.
ABC7’s coverage of the smash-and-grabs dealt with the language debate.

“We are talking about two incidents, we’re not going to call this looting,” he said of the strings of thefts in his area. “This is organized robbery. That’s what it is.”

Critics have been quick to ridicule the looting argument on social media, suggesting it is an attempt to be politically correct.

“Apparently the new politically correct term for ‘looting’ is ‘massive organized smash and grabs’? Okee dokee,” one person tweeted, while another wrote:

“The most San Francisco response possible to the utter lawlessness occurring is to debate the words used to describe it.”

A shattered window left behind in the wake of the widespread crime spree.
A shattered window left behind in the wake of the widespread crime spree.
ABC7 News

“Merits aside, what would possibly change if we consistently referred to these incidents as ‘smash and grabs’ rather than “looting”? The belief in the magical power of linguistic reform is a serious brain worm,” another person tweeted.

Another person argued: “It’s looting. Just like there were riots in Kenosha, not just protests.”

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