Brazen groups of up to 80 robbers have plundered shops throughout California over the past fortnight, stealing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury merchandise and electronics.
The thefts have become a hot button issue for California residents and for conservatives nationwide, who blame the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic leaders for failing to suppress crime.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “If Democrats don’t immediately stop smash and grab robberies, which are taking place in their cities, the National Guard must be called out.
“There has never been such a thing that has happened in our Country. Large numbers of stores are leaving San Francisco and other cities. Some chains are closing most of their stores. It is all not even believable.”
Police in Los Angeles reported a string of robberies there on the evening of Black Friday, following a 20-strong raid on a Nordstrom in an outdoor shopping centre called The Grove.
On 20 November, as many as 80 people charged into another Nordstrom in Walnut Creek, part of the San Francisco Bay Area, using pepper spray against employees.
The method also appears to have spread to other cities, with a group of 30 reportedly pillaging a Best Buy in Minneapolis. Several robberies in Chicago have been declared “smash and grabs”, though it is not clear how many people participated.
Mr Trump has a long history of calling for military responses to crime, threatening to deploy troops to Portland, Oregon and other Democratic cities during the George Floyd protests last year.
The reasons for the crime trend are unclear, with some blaming permissive sentencing laws and the movement to defund police forces while others point to a shortage of 911 operators and media reports producing copycat thefts.
Retail bosses in San Francisco have also said they are seeing an “epidemic” of shoplifting, although police statistics suggest that such thefts have only risen compared to 2020 and are still below their pre-pandemic levels.
The city’s chief prosecutor Chesa Boudin has become a key flashpoint, with data obtained by the San Francisco Examiner showing his office levied charges in only 50 per cent of shoplifting cases presented by police, compared to 70 per cent under his predecessor in 2019.