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. The majority of those arrested were able to bail out, or they met the no-bail criteria. A juvenile was also taken into custody, Moore stated. 

Moore stated that Los Angeles saw an increase in smash-and-grab crime during Thanksgiving and BlackFriday 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. Moore stated that there has been an increase in crime rates in New York City, Chicago and California Bay Area. 

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.

Moore reported that Los Angeles had 11 instances of thefts totaling $338,000 and property damages of $40,000, Moore added. 

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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.” 

Last week, Chesa Boudin, San Francisco District Attorney announced that nine individuals were facing felony charges for various thefts. Bay Area prosecutors also announced an effort to counter organized retail theft.

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The City Council of Walnut Creek approved $2 million more for police work after 100 ski-mask-wearing thieves robbed Nordstrom in November. The estimated theft of merchandise totalled $125,000. 

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.”

Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor, warned robbers about the fact that police had increased patrols and strategically placed officers throughout 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

Source: USAToday.com

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