Police and businesses prepare for criminals using protests as cover

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some of the protests across the country have been loosely linked to looting, and local police are watching out for it here in the Valley.

Thieves struck at a couple of malls Sunday night.

The Target at Sierra Vista Mall closed early Sunday, but employees kept their eyes on the store remotely.

"And they noticed there were 10-15 people who had come through the front door, broken through the glass, and they went back to the electronics department," said Lt. Jim Munro of the Clovis Police Department.

They grabbed some of those electronics, plus clothing, and maybe alcohol and then left through the back door. Clovis police call it a case of looting.

They used video from Target and other businesses and from city cameras to get some leads on the suspects even though most wore hoodies, and masks like a lot of people wear during the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than an hour later, Fresno police got a call about 10-15 people in Fig Garden Village.

They found broken glass at The Vault jewelry store and a trail of evidence.

"There was some jewelry located in the parking lot leading away from the business that clearly was part of the burglary," said Sgt. Jeff La Blue of the Fresno Police Department.

The owners reported about $300,000 in stolen jewelry.

In the same shopping center, suspects used a hammer to break the door at the CVS pharmacy, but they left without going in.

Police believe officers pulling into the parking lot scared the thieves away. They're classifying the crimes as a burglary and a vandalism, not as looting.

Businesses across the Valley are bracing for burglars and damage, like at Big 5 and Western Dental in a southeast Fresno neighborhood.

"The whole city is kind of on high alert, I guess, but we're maintaining the same controls we normally do," said Sgt. La Blue.

That means they're gathering intelligence - following up on every lead from social media or email or anywhere else.

They've seen the rumors of upcoming violence and they're ready to respond if it's real.

They've added extra tactical and undercover officers near shopping centers. In the evenings, for now, they'll only respond to emergency calls.

They also expect to make arrests in at least one of the burglaries -- none of which are connected to any protests, as far as police know.
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