More than fifty cellphone and tablets displayed in the SFPD's press room. Photo by Julian Mark

The San Francisco Police Department’s press room looked a bit like Santa’s workshop on Thursday afternoon as cell phones, designer bags, perfume boxes and other valuables were splayed out on multiple tables for the media to train their camera lenses on.  

The merchandise was, in fact, stolen merchandise recovered during an eight-month police sting called “Operation Wrecking Ball” that targeted organized retail theft.

It was a collaboration between a constellation of agencies including the San Francisco Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol, among others.

All told, the agencies recovered $300,000 in illicitly obtained loot — including $16,000 in cash, 40-odd cell phones, and other expensive-looking odds and ends — during a citywide raid on Dec. 5 at seven locations in San Francisco and one in Daly City. Police took 12 fugitives into custody that day and are still seeking another 28.

Many of the items were stolen from retailers in downtown San Francisco and recovered from, mostly, residences and storage facilities. But San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott noted that one search warrant was executed at a place of business.

That took place at a junk store on 2141-C Mission Street on the afternoon on Dec. 5. Mission Local documented around 10 SFPD officers and DA agents carried boxes out of the store in a caravan and loaded them into a semi truck.

They kept their lips tight at the time, and now we know why.

“The reality is, the majority of property crime is being committed by a small number people,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “They’re doing it for profit, victimizing people over and over again and the only way we can bring it down is doing the work we’re doing today.”

Gascón said charges against the defendants will be filed in the next few days, without providing their identities.

Officials said the “fenced” goods were tracked as far as Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston.

Other than cell phones and cash, officials recovered a plethora of spray paint cans, over-the-counter medicine, earphones, a stack of one-piece children’s pajamas, and a couple of bottles of Veuve Clicquot.

“It doesn’t matter where you hide, we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said San Francisco police Chief Bill Scott.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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