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Flash mob smash-and-grabs continue at high-end stores in Los Angeles

Richard Winton, Andrew J. Campa and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — More smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at luxury stores have police and retailers struggling with how to crack down on the crimes.

A rash of such thefts continued in Los Angeles as organized groups descended on stores and grabbed expensive merchandise in pre-Thanksgiving raids around the city.

On Wednesday night, a security guard was attacked with bear spray as several people entered the Nordstrom store at the Westfield Topanga & the Village shopping center in Canoga Park, grabbed merchandise and ran out, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Police are investigating a similar incident the same night in which groups struck several stores in the Beverly Center in the Beverly Grove neighborhood

The thefts came two days after an organized group broke into a Nordstrom at the Grove shopping center by smashing a window and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, police said.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission that the department would be stepping up patrols and dedicating additional resources to some higher-end locations to deter the wave of mob thefts.

At the Police Commission meeting earlier this week, Steve Soboroff, a retail developer and member of the commission, asked Moore what advice he had for retailers, especially smaller mom-and-pop businesses, to prevent falling victim to such crimes.

 

Moore recommended that businesses station employees to greet patrons as they enter stores and ask what they are seeking.

The chief said high-value items are best kept away from the front of the store and access to them limited.

Moore said security cameras can also be vital in identifying suspects. In the Nordstrom robbery, he said, one of the three suspects was captured in the store after the break-in was caught on video.

Moore said high-end retailers are increasingly using GPS location devices to track merchandise and help police locate thieves if they’re stolen.

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