Fourteen people have been arrested in connection with smash-and-grab style crimes at stores across Los Angeles over the last two weeks, officials said Thursday as they pledged to stop the organized sprees.
Groups of thieves have stolen more than $330,000 worth of goods in 11 incidents since Nov. 18. Some of the thefts targeted high-end stores and at least one involved a sledgehammer and an e-bike being used to smash a window, police said.
The 13 adults and one juvenile face charges in connection with six incidents, officials said. There was no mention that any were involved in more than one.
All have been released from custody, either due to their age, after posting bail or because of no-bail rules for some crimes put in place for by the judicial system to reduce jail populations in the Covid-19 pandemic, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said.
Police are still seeking to identify and make arrests in many of the crimes.
“We’re acting fast to stop this in its tracks,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a Thursday news conference.
Garcetti said large parts of Los Angeles have reopened in the pandemic and he suggested the no-bail policy should change.
There have been a series of smash-and-grab or flash-mob style crimes at retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles in November, as well as in some other cities.
The first one in Los Angeles occurred Nov. 18 in the robbery of a clothing store, Moore said.
Other thefts included a break-in involving a sledgehammer at a Nordstrom at the popular The Grove shopping center, which resulted in a police chase; a robbery at a shoe store inside the Beverly Center mall; and a robbery at different Nordstrom in which a security guard was attacked with bear spray, police said.
Moore said that the thieves communicate through phones and social media, and use scouts to look for police and vulnerable stores.
“They communicate that to others, and then they descend on that location,” Moore said.
Police believe the items are being stolen to be resold. In addition to around $338,000 worth of goods stolen in the 11 incidents, more than $40,000 in property damage was caused, Moore said.
Most of the thefts in Los Angeles occurred after a series of smash-and-grabs in the San Francisco Bay Area during the weekend of Nov. 19.
Days earlier, a group of thieves ran into a Louis Vuitton store in a Chicago suburb and stole more than $120,000 worth of merchandise, Oak Brook police said.