Police are investigating two more incidents of so-called “flash mob” thefts in Los Angeles, in which groups of robbers rush into stores, grab merchandise and run out with it.
In one incident Wednesday evening, robbers attacked a security guard and stole designer handbags worth an estimated $25,000 from the Nordstrom store at the Westfield Topanga mall in Canoga Park.
The robbers ran through a door and took “several high-end purses,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton told ABC7. A security guard was sprayed with “bear spray,” according to the LAPD. The guard was taken to a hospital for treatment, though no further details were immediately available.
A group of at least five men, one wearing an orange wig, entered the store at about 7 p.m. stole the purses, left the store, jumped into a newer model gray Ford Mustang that sped away from the scene, according ABC7 and KCAL9.
The LAPD was also investigating what it called “flash mob thefts in which groups of suspects entered several stores in the 8500 block of Beverly Blvd at the Beverly Center and grabbed merchandise without paying and ran out.”
Police said they had received leads and were “actively working to bring those involved in this Grand Theft to justice.”
Smash-and-grab robberies have become a sudden scourge around Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay area.
Wednesday’s crimes occurred two days after a smash-and-grab robbery by a mob of at least 20 people at the Nordstrom store at the upscale Grove shopping center in the Fairfax district Monday evening. The suspects in that robbery fled the scene in at least four vehicles.
Three suspects were arrested in South Los Angeles following a chase. Officers recovered several items of clothing, at least one cash register and gloves from their vehicle.
Also Monday, at about 9:45 p.m., six suspects entered a CVS Pharmacy in the 5800 block of South Vermont Avenue in the South Los Angeles area and stole three cash registers, taking about $8,500 in cash, Madison said. It was unclear if the same suspects later targeted the Grove.
On Sunday, storefront windows of the Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Beverly Hills were smashed during attempted burglaries.
“Multiple suspects traveling in several vehicles descended on the locations and used a sledgehammer to try to break through front windows,” Beverly Hills Police Sgt. Anthony Adams said. The burglars did not get into the stores, and nothing was taken, according to police.
In the Walnut Creek area in Northern California on Saturday night, about 80 people descended upon a Nordstrom store and stole merchandise before fleeing in numerous vehicles. Some arrests were reported. That crime came a day after several stores in San Francisco’s Union Square were targeted by people who smashed windows and fled in vehicles.
During a media briefing while touring a Bay area vaccine clinic Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom reacted to the crimes.
“I have no sympathy, no empathy whatsoever for people smashing and grabbing, stealing people’s items, creating havoc and terror on our streets. None. Period. Full stop,” Newsom said. “We want real accountability. We want people prosecuted, and we want people to feel safe this holiday season.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was similarly blunt on Tuesday when asked about the local heists.
“There’s no place for this kind of criminal behavior,” Garcetti said. “It needs to be addressed. There need to be consequences. We need a jail system that will step up and do some of the rehabilitative work.”
The mayor also appeared to level a veiled criticism of local prosecutors, saying that committing a crime needs to carry a “penalty that doesn’t seem to exist right now.”
Grove developer Rick Caruso, who is considering a run for Los Angeles mayor, told reporters he blames the rise of such brazen crimes on elected leaders, notably District Attorney George Gascón.
“It’s a manifestation of deciding we’re doing to defund the cops,” Caruso told ABC7. “It’s a manifestation of deciding we’re not going to prosecute crimes. I see my city being torn apart because of bad decisions by leaders.”
Moore, the LAPD chief, told the Police Commission on Tuesday morning the department would be stepping up patrols, “dedicating resources to some of these higher-end locations to deter further acts of violence.”
The Long Beach Police Department was taking preventive action in an attempt to avoid similar crimes.
“Today, we placed mobile cameras in business areas — to increase visibility and deter criminal activity in response to commercial robberies occurring in other cities,” the LBPD tweeted Wednesday. “There are no credible threats of violence to #LongBeach and we are committed to safeguarding our community.”