Experts caution using the word ‘looting’ to describe recent ‘smash and grabs’

Over the weekend, a string of stores in the Bay Area were burglarized; experts are now clarifying the incidents are not considered looting.

Following the robberies, several police departments called the incidents cases of “looting”. Chief Bill Scott of the San Francisco Police Department said on Saturday, “The Louis Vuitton store was burglarized and looted. The Burberry in Westfield Mall was burglarized and looted.” ABC7 reports that what occurred does not fit the word’s definition.

Julian Glover, the station’s Race and Social Justice Reporter, explained what looting really looks like. “As the Bay Area grapples with a wave of seemingly organized smash and grab robberies this weekend, policing and journalism analysts are cautioning against the use of the term looting,” he said.

Retired veteran police officer Lorenzo Boyd, who is a PhD, Professor of Criminal Justice & Community Policing at the University of New Haven, commented on the matter, saying, “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.”

According to the California penal code, “looting” is defined 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,” which was not the case this weekend.

An editorial in Mediate challenged the claims made by these “experts”. The author cited the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of the word, which says, “to rob especially on a large scale and usually by violence or corruption.” He claimed that despite this definition, “journalism requires reporting on legal matters to use words in accordance with legal definitions even if they may upset or confuse readers and Twitter.”

In San Francisco, over $1 million worth of merchandise was stolen. Likewise, San Jose saw $40,000 worth of merchandise stolen from the city’s LuLuLemon alone. Hayward and Walnut Creek experienced high value theft, as well.




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