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Jen Psaki blames surge of smash-and-grab raids across the nation on COVID

The White House on Thursday blamed a rash of smash-and-grab raids around the country on COVID-19, saying the pandemic was a 'root cause.'

In California, organized crime syndicates have been accused of paying gangs to ransack luxury stores and steal thousands of dollars worth of goods. 

Major cities elsewhere have also reported a surge in store break-ins, including Chicago and its suburbs, where more than a dozen suspects attacked a Louis Vuitton store recently stole more than $120,000 worth of high-end clothing and other merchandise. 

White House Press Secretary was asked about crime and attacks on police officers during her daily briefing, and whether the president still thought the pandemic was to blame.

'I think many people have conveyed that and also one of the ... root causes of crime in communities is guns and gun violence,' she said. 'And we've seen that statistically around the country.'

Fox News' Peter Doocy continued with his line of questioning

He said: 'So when a huge group of criminals organises themselves and they want to go loot, a store, CVS and Nordstrom a Home Depot until the shelves are clean, you think that's because of the pandemic?'

Psaki replied: 'I think a root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic. Yes.'

White House Press Secretary on Thursday said the pandemic was a 'root cause' of crime when asked about the surge in smash-and-grab raids around the country in recent weeks

Suspects took about $120,000 of merchandise as they smashed their way through a Louis Vuitton store in Oak Brook, Illinois, last month

A group of about 40 to 50 teenage shoplifters made off with an unknown amount of jewelry and other items in Hayward, California, last month. Experts and officials say national crime networks are behind many of the 'smash-and-grab ' operations 

The White House and the president have made the same point a number of times this year, suggesting that a surge in violent crime this year was the result of the country reopening.  

In June, Biden said: As we emerge from this pandemic, with the country opening back up again, the traditional summer's ... summer spike may even be more pronounced than it usually would be.'

'You know, the media, outside of you people and a few others, the media isn't reporting this problem but when you have hoards of people running in, kids mostly, running in and stealing, robbing stores where drug chains are closing all their stores in different cities because they can't keep them open, we just don't have law enforcement, we're not allowed to have law enforcement,' Trump told Fox & Friends.

But Psaki hinted that part of the blame lay at his door, when she was asked what Biden was doing to take the spike.

California was hit by a string of robberies last month, including Nancy Pelosi's home town

'I would say that one: The President proposed additional funding in his budget over the funding that had been proposed by the prior president to increase and support local police departments, make sure we keep cops on the beat. 

'The President proposed additional funding in his budget over the funding that had been proposed by the prior precedent to increase in support local, local police departments, make sure we keep cops on the beat.'

California has been worst affected. 

At least 18 people broke into a Nordstrom department store in Los Angeles last week, according to city police. 

And it followed a string of similar incidents in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one in which hammer-wielding thugs smashed cases at a jewelry story in Hayward.

Police in Los Angeles say robberies are up almost four percent on last year's figures. 

Crime experts say stores stocked for Christmas and the low priority that police give to such crime is part of the story. 

Some are skeptical of the role of COVID-19. 

There were 7,386 robberies in Los Angeles this year through November 20, the LAPD’s most recent data, a 3.6% increase from the 7,126 reported the same time last year 

'This has nothing to do with the pandemic,' Pete Eliadis, a former law enforcement official and founder of Intelligence Consulting Partners, told CNN.

'The pandemic is overused at this point.'

And Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, said criminal networks were offering young people up to $1,000 to steal specific merchandise from stores before selling it online. 

'We´re not talking about someone who needs money or needs food. These are people who go out and do this is for high profit, and for the thrill,' Dugan said.

The spate of crimes has angered Republicans who say Democratic administrations are not doing enough to tackle the problem.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom last month said he would provide extra support in the next state budge to combat retail theft rings. 

'We need to break up these crime rings, and we need to make an example out of these folks,' Newsom said. 'We cannot allow this to continue.'

He also promised extra police patrols for Black Friday, but the robberies continued.