A group of thieves in a stolen pickup truck slammed into the front of a Seattle boutique shop for vintage and collectible clothing called Rush Hour last week – shattering the front window and running inside to steal their stock.
All was not lost, according to the owners, who in an Instagram video said they hoped to recoup some of their losses on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with valuable items that had not been stolen.
Three days after they posted the video, the thieves returned, this time crashing through the store front with a minivan before pilfering high-ticket items left behind in the first break-in.
It is an example of a crime wave targeting brick-and-mortar stores around the country. The crime, referred to as "ram raiding" and also "crash and grab," depending on where it happens, involves driving a vehicle through a store's front window to break in and loot.
A security camera captured the moment a juvenile driver slammed a stolen car through the steel doors at Osage County Guns in Wright City, Missouri. (Credit: Osage County Guns / Fox News)
The Wall Street Journal highlighted the issue over the weekend, calling them "drive-through burglaries."
Targets have ranged from small boutiques like Rush Hour to luxury outlets and big box chains.
"SPD has been seeing this type of tactic of utilizing a vehicle to ram a business' entry in order to steal merchandise from within occurring in multiple incidents," Seattle Police Public Information Officer Juddina Gulpan told Fox News Digital. "It is unknown if these incidents are related."
The crimes tend to occur in the early morning hours, leaving shopkeepers showing up to work to find devastating damage.
Last Wednesday, a crew hit an Oakland, California, Trader Joe's store around 4 a.m., the San Francisco Times reported.
Osage County Guns was designed to be a secure facility, with no vulnerable glass windows and reinforced steel doors. However, thieves were able to fit a stolen car through the bollards outside and drive it through the door frame. (Credit: John Dawson
A group of five to six suspects hit a marijuana shop in Seattle around 2 a.m. Tuesday, according to FOX 13 Seattle. The chain's vice president told the outlet that the state should protect her businesses, which had been robbed three times in 10 days.
"The tax revenue that we produce across the state should be used in some sort of a security system," Diane Walter told the station.
Dockside Cannabis, another Seattle pot chain, has been hit more than a half-dozen times this year, according to the station.
In late October, a man in a stolen Jeep slammed into a clothing store around 5 a.m., and four others rushed inside to steal merchandise, FOX 32 Chicago reported.
The defiant owner, in an Instagram video, said he was offering free Nike sneakers to the first customer to show up after the break-in.
"Unfortunately today we woke up with a f----ing Jeep inside our store," he said. "But you know how we roll here, that s--- don't stop us."
At Osage County Guns, in the suburbs of St. Louis, a group of teens crashed through the steel front doors around 2 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2022, causing more than $200,000 in damage while stealing more than 30 guns worth a combined $28,000, according to John Dawson, the store's general manager.
"It was a total nightmare," he told Fox News Digital. "Our retail store was closed for five weeks and surprisingly, the biggest hurdle was getting new doors."
The shop had no glass windows or doors and was protected by bollards, he said, but a design flaw left the thieves just enough room to squeeze through and crash into the steel front doors.
Video shows them fanning out inside, smashing glass cases and taking what they wanted before they ran outside and fled in two other stolen cars.
Dawson said he was worried about a lack of political will to properly prosecute these crimes. None of the suspects who entered his store were older than 17, he said.
Osage County Guns has since augmented its bollards with 4,000-pound concrete blocks to prevent future attacks, he said. And although they are much larger, they also cost just a fraction of installing new posts.
The young thieves left behind tens of thousands of dollars in damaged merchandise – including guns far more valuable than the ones they stole, Dawson said.
"You only steal what you can sell," said Paul Mauro, a retired NYPD inspector who recently wrote a Fox News Digital op-ed about rising property crime. "These kids don't need 30 guns – they're going to be looking to fence it."
To combat the crime wave, he said, prosecutors need to get serious about holding the suspects accountable – and the people who buy and sell the goods they steal.
Otherwise, catch-and-release and no-bail policies are crushing brick-and-mortar store owners, he said.
"When you reconfigure an entire criminal justice system without any input from the enforcement side, you're gonna get this kind of outcome," he told Fox News Digital.
Retail theft is already a large – and growing – problem for stores around the country. The National Retail Federation reported last year that the problem cost the industry $94.5 billion in 2021, a 4% increase from the year prior.
Organized retail crime as a whole climbed by 26.5% in that span, according to the federation, affecting more than 80% of its members.