LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department announced Thursday more than a dozen arrests after a series of smash-and-grab thefts across the city in recent weeks where nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen
Fourteen people were arrested in connection with 11 brazen robberies between Nov. 18 and 28, and all are out of custody, police Chief Michel Moore said. Most bailed out or met no-bail criteria, and one is a juvenile, he said.
Moore added that Los Angeles, and California, saw a “rash” of the smash-and-grab crimes surrounding the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays. The crimes were all similar in nature, characterized by multiple suspects working together, destruction of property, assault on store employees, and caravans of vehicles parking close to high-end retail stores.
The night before Thanksgiving, five people rushed into a Nordstrom store in Los Angeles and fled with several purses worth $25,000.
The Los Angeles robberies are only a part of a recent wave of brazen thefts at luxury and department stores such as Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom that have coincided with a nationwide rise in organized retail crime. Chicago, New York, and the California Bay Area have all seen an increase in these types of crimes recently, Moore said.
A majority of retailers said that stores are increasingly being targeted and that attacks have become more violent since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail association, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
In total, Los Angeles saw 11 incidents of this type, in which $338,000 worth of property was stolen and suspects doled out $40,000 worth of property damage, Moore said.
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The chief said he was confident that police investigating the retail robberies had the support of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who ran on a reform agenda and supports ending bail across the board for misdemeanor, non-violent and non-serious felony offenses.
Gascón’s office said in a statement Thursday that those who commit smash-and-grab thefts will be held accountable.
“Our office has been collaborating with multiple law enforcement agencies and once all the evidence has been gathered, we will review the cases to determine what criminal charges should be filed,” Alex Bastian, special advisor to Gascón, said in the statement. “These brazen acts hurt all of us: retailers, employees and customers alike.”
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin last week announced felony charges against nine people for a series of thefts, and Bay Area prosecutors announced a joint effort to combat organized retail theft.
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In the Bay Area, the City Council in Walnut Creek this week approved an additional $2 million for policing after nearly 100 thieves wearing ski masks carried out a smash-and-grab mob robbery at a Nordstrom store in November. An estimated $125,000 in merchandise was stolen.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has boasted of his criminal justice reform efforts, promised on Wednesday that the proposed budget he sends to state lawmakers next month will “significantly increase our efforts to go after these retail rings.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned robbers that the police department had extended patrols and strategic placements across the city.
“We will find you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you,” Garcetti said in a press conference Thursday.
Contributing: The Associated Press