Los Angeles to form task force to stop smash-and-grab, mob robberies at shops, malls
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the recent string of hits on high-end stores a "trend" that "needs to be quickly addressed"
By Josh Cain
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — After a string of high-profile smash-and-grab robberies targeting high-end shopping centers, Los Angeles area law enforcement officials said Thursday, August 17 they are creating a task force to deal with the problem.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, flanked by leaders from LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, announced the task force made up of officers from around the region dedicated to targeting groups of robbers whose sudden stampedes into retail stores have been flummoxing business owners and police since Monday, July 3.
Among those robberies was the widely covered one on Saturday, Aug. 12, when 30 to as many as 50 people, all believed to be between the ages of 18 and 25, barged into the Nordstrom at the Topanga Mall in Canoga Park.
The group rampaged through the store, ultimately grabbing around $300,000 worth of merchandise, police said.
There have been at least three other, similar robberies of high-end stores recently, including on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at a Ksubi clothing store on South La Brea in the Fairfax District.
Speaking Thursday at City Hall, Bass called the robberies "unacceptable."
"No Angeleno should feel like it's not safe to go shopping in Los Angeles," she said. "Our No. 1 job is to keep L.A. safe."
LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who oversees the department's detective units, said police believe the string of robberies began in July, with two crimes involving between four to as many as 15 suspected robbers.
During the Topanga Mall robbery, one person attacked a security guard with bear spray.
Pitcher said the task force would be based out of the San Fernando Valley and would be on-call all day and night. He said it will be staffed with at least 22 full-time officers who will be able to call on a broad swath of law enforcement resources.
"We will be using cell tower dumps, computer information — we have cyber investigators that will be working with us," he said. "We will be using various databases throughout the city, county, the state, and ultimately nationally to assist us in these investigations...We will be using informants, ultimately, to be working the front end and back end of these investigations."
Pitcher said the task force would also be targeting those buying the stolen items. Several law enforcement officials on Thursday said the groups likely had buyers already lined up.
Just hours before Bass and LAPD announced the task force, the Glendale Police Department announced they arrested one suspect who was among 30 people who hit a Yves Saint Laurent store store at the Americana at Brand on Aug. 8. Police said that mob made off with around $400,000 worth of handbags.
Despite the robberies targeting high-end stores, in the city of Los Angeles, robberies are actually significantly down compared to the same time period over 2022, with 13.3% fewer robberies recorded so far.
Pitcher said that represented hundreds fewer street-level robberies occurring in the city so far this year.
"Street robberies and overall robberies are down," he said. "However, this is one of those glitches and one of these trends that pop up that need to be quickly addressed."