Democrat San Jose mayor disagrees with Biden White House, says COVID not to blame for crime spikes

Jen Psaki said Thursday COVID-19 pandemic is root cause of California thefts

A Democrat California mayor pushed back on the White House’s claim that the coronavirus pandemic is at the root of rising crime, including smash-and-grab thefts, occurring across the state.

"I think criminals are at the root of smash-and-grab crimes. And criminals come up with new arrangements every time that we catch them on the old ones and this is just the nature of criminal enforcement," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told "America’s Newsroom."


White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the root cause of the spike in organized retail crime is the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the Biden administration is working with a number of communities across the nation to "crack down" on crime in those neighborhoods.

Smash-and-grab looters have been targeting stores across the nation in recent weeks, robbing retailers of thousands of dollars in merchandise in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and Minneapolis.

Psaki, during a White House press briefing Thursday, said that President Biden has called for an increase in funding to support local police departments and "ensure that local communities are working in partnership to crack down on crime and any dangers they see in their communities."

Jen Psaki speaks to media at White House daily briefing

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House November 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"We've also worked with a range of communities across the country on strike forces," Psaki continued, adding that the administration is "continuing to implement that from the Department of Justice.

"But the president absolutely believes that community police forces can have an important instrumental effect in helping keep communities safe."

Psaki pointed to guns and the COVID-19 pandemic as "root" causes of the spike in organized retail theft.

"One of the root reasons of crime in communities is guns and gun violence, and we’ve seen that statistically around the country," Psaki said, adding that a "root cause in a lot of communities is the pandemic."


Liccardo, a former prosecutor, said the police department has not been defunded in San Jose.

"We just got to be more nimble and use technological tools and be able to be smart about how we use our police departments," Liccardo said.

"Here in San Jose we don’t defund. We make sure we do all we can to ensure officers are out on the street and we also try to keep guns off the street. This isn’t about Democrat or Republican policies. This is about being smart."

He also said the state's the Prop 47 measure has not been "helpful" in trying to reduce crime, adding many of the thefts are being charged as felonies in his city "as they should."

The referendum, passed seven years ago, has been widely criticized for effectively giving shoplifters and addicts a green light to commit crimes as long as the merchandise they steal or the drugs they take are less than $950 in value.

Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.