WALNUT CREEK — After dozens of people dashed into and ransacked the downtown Nordstrom in a brazen heist last November, residents and businesses were so shaken that city leaders knew they had to do something fast to quell fears of future plundering.
It was one of a rash of mass robberies to hit Bay Area stores that weekend right before the busy holiday shopping weeks, and nerves were on edge.
So less than two weeks after the Broadway Plaza attack, the Walnut Creek City Council held a special meeting and gave the police department an urgent directive: Hire five new officers to beef up security around Nordstrom and other high-end retailers such as the Apple store.
But the cavalry won’t come over the mountaintop for a while. In an interview this week, police Chief Jamie Knox acknowledged that it’s going to take time before those five new cops are hired — maybe up to a year.
That’s usually how long it takes to recruit, hire and train candidates these days from a pool that’s been drying out, a result that’s partly attributed to the tarnished image of officers in the wake of notorious police killings.
“It’s very competitive,” Knox said. “Every police department in the region is clamoring for the same quality candidates.”
Although Walnut Creek has not experienced a repeat of the Nov. 20 mass theft, Knox doesn’t see any reason to back off from the additional hires. He and other police officials have said there simply weren’t enough officers available that night to corral more than a few members of the mob that descended on the store, and only three were ever charged.
Knox maintains that the Nordstrom theft was significant enough to warrant action, given that it appeared to be “highly organized,” involved weapons and made the store’s employees feel unsafe.
Getting even a handful of additional full-time officers on the force can be an extensive process, especially if the newcomers have not yet gone through the police training academy, Knox said. Although raiding other police forces for veteran officers would be faster, most departments are in the same boat and trying the same thing.
Walnut Creek Police Chief Jamie Knox (Courtesy of Walnut Creek)
City Manager Dan Buckshi also has no second thoughts about the council’s decision, despite Walnut Creek actually seeing a 9% decline in property crimes in 2021 from two years before.
“This remains a very high priority,” Buckshi said. “We don’t view this as a one-and-done situation. We’re going to do anything we can to prevent any theft from happening again and to keep Walnut Creek the desirable place it is.”
And Councilman Kevin Wilk, who was wrapping up a term as mayor when the city doled out the money for new officers, said the mass theft was “more than simple shoplifting or a property crime.”
Lt. Anthony Mangini of the Walnut Creek Police Department speaks at the Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2021 meeting of the Walnut Creek City Council. (Screenshot)
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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment