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Sneakerheads steal from Dick's, Fire Kicks, Kick Stock

El Cajon cops use Instagram to nab thieves

Sneaker heisters cut a hole in Fire Kicks' wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear.
Sneaker heisters cut a hole in Fire Kicks' wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear.

In the streets of San Diego County, a shady trend is on the rise—sneaker thefts. But these aren't your average shoe burglaries; we're speaking of sneakers that cost as much as a home rental payment. The allure of footwear has created a lucrative market for thieves. However, as the "kickz" or sneaker thefts become more blatant, so does the attention of local law enforcement.

The El Cajon Police Department takes thievery seriously, posting incriminating photos of thieves on Instagram. Like the wanted posters of the Wild West, the police ask their 30,000-plus IG followers for tips that lead to the 2023-2024 criminals' whereabouts.

Dante Rowley of defunct Rosewood store downtown: "Stores are afraid to stop thieves because they can get sued if the security and staff hurt them (thieves).


On April 8, Cedric Hunt, 29, lifted a pair of Nike Air Force One sneakers and additional gear from Dick’s Sporting Goods at Parkway Plaza in El Cajon — reads the El Cajon police report on IG. And despite Hunt's efforts to run away, the police nabbed the sneakerhead, who had a warrant for his arrest and a theft-arrest history dating back to nearly ten years. The police booked Hunt into the county jail.

Nowadays, thieves run out of department and specialty stores with thousands of dollars worth of sneakers. They then flip the stylish rubber and leather footwear on the streets, swap meets, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and other digital platforms, where it's hard to trace the stolen items back to the businesses.

Regarding the sneaker thefts, "It's a catch-22," said Dante Rowley in a recent interview. "Stores are afraid to stop thieves because they can get sued if the security and staff hurt them (thieves). The criminals take advantage of that and rush into the stores with packs of people, and they can't be stopped."

Rowley, who owned the now-defunct Rosewood San Diego sneaker and gear store downtown, had to hire security guards to post up in front of his store.

His store carried thousand-dollar vintage Air Jordans, Nike SB Dunks, and Supreme, and Balenciaga crossovers.

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"It got bad when people started posting video clips online of smash-and-grabs," he continued. The videos from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other big cities depict younger people ransacking and robbing sneaker and accessory stores in droves — inspiring young San Diego County thieves wearing Covid-style facemasks and hoodies to do the same locally. Afterward, some sneakerheads post their new sneakers on TikTok and get more adrenaline boosts from the likes and re-shares.

El Cajon police use of Instagram


Rowley would eventually sell his store in 2022 to Fire Kicks, a local sneaker and clothing store.

In November, four or five thieves burglarized the Fire Kicks' Hillcrest store. The sneaker heisters cut a hole in the store's wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear — according to mainstream news reports.

Later that same late November night or early morning, burglars broke the Kick Stock shoe store window in the Westfield Mission Valley mall. The San Diego Police Department reportedly said: “A significant amount of merchandise was stolen.” Then, at 4 am, at the UTC mall in University City, police said that the same group of about four burglars attempted to break into the City Kicks shoe store. They were unsuccessful here.

But most of the sneaker thefts in town are done in plain sight, just like the recent sneaker theft incident at the El Cajon Dick's Sporting Goods, according to online forums and posts.

"One of the problems is corporations preventing employees from apprehending these people," commented a local sneakerhead on Instagram. "Those employees don’t get paid enough to risk their lives for these degenerate thieves." SDslackers on IG responded: "It's really the insurance companies won't cover employee injuries for this. It's cheaper for them to cover the loss of the shoes than the medical bills for a knife wound."

Rowley, the former owner of Rosewood San Diego, was victimized in 2018 when someone broke into his store and burglarized his sneakers, including a pair of Air Jordan 1 OFF-WHITE Chicago editions worth about $2500. And another time, after someone made off with some high-end sneakers, "I ran the guy down and took all the stuff back."

In October, CBS 8 News reported on a thief who entered an Escondido art gallery in the daytime. “One guy came in with his shoes, took his shoes off, put my Jordans on, and walked out with some very one-of-a-kind Jordans, the bluest Jordans on the planet,” said artist Dope Rx in the news report. "He needs to take them off and return them immediately.” 

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Sneaker heisters cut a hole in Fire Kicks' wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear.
Sneaker heisters cut a hole in Fire Kicks' wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear.

In the streets of San Diego County, a shady trend is on the rise—sneaker thefts. But these aren't your average shoe burglaries; we're speaking of sneakers that cost as much as a home rental payment. The allure of footwear has created a lucrative market for thieves. However, as the "kickz" or sneaker thefts become more blatant, so does the attention of local law enforcement.

The El Cajon Police Department takes thievery seriously, posting incriminating photos of thieves on Instagram. Like the wanted posters of the Wild West, the police ask their 30,000-plus IG followers for tips that lead to the 2023-2024 criminals' whereabouts.

Dante Rowley of defunct Rosewood store downtown: "Stores are afraid to stop thieves because they can get sued if the security and staff hurt them (thieves).


On April 8, Cedric Hunt, 29, lifted a pair of Nike Air Force One sneakers and additional gear from Dick’s Sporting Goods at Parkway Plaza in El Cajon — reads the El Cajon police report on IG. And despite Hunt's efforts to run away, the police nabbed the sneakerhead, who had a warrant for his arrest and a theft-arrest history dating back to nearly ten years. The police booked Hunt into the county jail.

Nowadays, thieves run out of department and specialty stores with thousands of dollars worth of sneakers. They then flip the stylish rubber and leather footwear on the streets, swap meets, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and other digital platforms, where it's hard to trace the stolen items back to the businesses.

Regarding the sneaker thefts, "It's a catch-22," said Dante Rowley in a recent interview. "Stores are afraid to stop thieves because they can get sued if the security and staff hurt them (thieves). The criminals take advantage of that and rush into the stores with packs of people, and they can't be stopped."

Rowley, who owned the now-defunct Rosewood San Diego sneaker and gear store downtown, had to hire security guards to post up in front of his store.

His store carried thousand-dollar vintage Air Jordans, Nike SB Dunks, and Supreme, and Balenciaga crossovers.

Sponsored
Sponsored

"It got bad when people started posting video clips online of smash-and-grabs," he continued. The videos from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other big cities depict younger people ransacking and robbing sneaker and accessory stores in droves — inspiring young San Diego County thieves wearing Covid-style facemasks and hoodies to do the same locally. Afterward, some sneakerheads post their new sneakers on TikTok and get more adrenaline boosts from the likes and re-shares.

El Cajon police use of Instagram


Rowley would eventually sell his store in 2022 to Fire Kicks, a local sneaker and clothing store.

In November, four or five thieves burglarized the Fire Kicks' Hillcrest store. The sneaker heisters cut a hole in the store's wall and jumped in, making out with an estimated $20,000 worth of gear — according to mainstream news reports.

Later that same late November night or early morning, burglars broke the Kick Stock shoe store window in the Westfield Mission Valley mall. The San Diego Police Department reportedly said: “A significant amount of merchandise was stolen.” Then, at 4 am, at the UTC mall in University City, police said that the same group of about four burglars attempted to break into the City Kicks shoe store. They were unsuccessful here.

But most of the sneaker thefts in town are done in plain sight, just like the recent sneaker theft incident at the El Cajon Dick's Sporting Goods, according to online forums and posts.

"One of the problems is corporations preventing employees from apprehending these people," commented a local sneakerhead on Instagram. "Those employees don’t get paid enough to risk their lives for these degenerate thieves." SDslackers on IG responded: "It's really the insurance companies won't cover employee injuries for this. It's cheaper for them to cover the loss of the shoes than the medical bills for a knife wound."

Rowley, the former owner of Rosewood San Diego, was victimized in 2018 when someone broke into his store and burglarized his sneakers, including a pair of Air Jordan 1 OFF-WHITE Chicago editions worth about $2500. And another time, after someone made off with some high-end sneakers, "I ran the guy down and took all the stuff back."

In October, CBS 8 News reported on a thief who entered an Escondido art gallery in the daytime. “One guy came in with his shoes, took his shoes off, put my Jordans on, and walked out with some very one-of-a-kind Jordans, the bluest Jordans on the planet,” said artist Dope Rx in the news report. "He needs to take them off and return them immediately.” 

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