Smash-and-grab robberies are a financial and emotional strain on Los Angeles County’s businesses

As if recovering from the mammoth COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t hard enough, a wave of violent robberies made the holidays even more complicated for retailers.

The crimes have alerted retailers and consumers during peak shopping season, sending law enforcement agencies and elected officials for solutions and money to fund them.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, 20 people flocked to a Nordstrom store in The Grove Mall, smashed the store window with a sledgehammer, and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of goods. Days later, a group of thieves broke into the north stream of Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, ambushed a security guard, and fled with $ 25,000 worth of goods.

Two men smashed display cases and fled with products from a T-Mobile outlet on the 1200 block of North Lake Avenue in Pasadena on Monday evening, December 13th. (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

In a breathtaking robbery of a Home Depot in Lakewood last month, a group of at least eight young men stormed into the store to grab tools like hammers, crowbars, wrenches and sledgehammers, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff‘s Department – items that are being used, officials said to start more smash-and-grab crimes.

Several similar incidents have been reported across the area since these high profile crimes hit the headlines.

As recently as this week, officials said three suspects are believed to be responsible for at least six cell phone robberies across Los Angeles County this week, police said. The robberies took place within hours of T-Mobile stores in Pasadena, Duarte, Woodland Hills, Reseda, Valley Village and Hermosa Beach on Monday, December 13th, Detective Noah Stone of the North Hollywood Police Department of Los Angeles said .

Violent robberies, business experts say, weigh on small businesses looking forward to the Christmas shopping season to make up for some of their losses after a disastrous year of lockdowns, labor shortages and supply chain crises.

“They didn’t put all of their products on the shelves and now they get the product on a shelf, they’re stolen,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, adding that violent robberies are a particular challenge for small business owners who can’t afford to hire security.

Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, president and CEO of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, said flash mob theft not only affects bottom line, it also creates “traumatic experiences” for customers and store staff.

Pictures of the recent robberies during a press conference announcing arrests related to the recent robbery and providing safety measures and prevention tips at LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles on Thursday December 2, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star – News / SCNG)

“The concern is that it’s vacation time and if people are scared of shopping in person, they might choose to shop online,” she said.

Elle B. Zhou label fashion designer Elle B. Mambetov was excited to expand her brand and open a department store this year – but after the recent spate of violent robberies, she decided to close her Beverly Hills store and pursue her expansion plans stop.

“We hope to visit it again in early 2022,” she said.

Organized retail crime is estimated to cost stores about $ 700,000 for every $ 1 billion in sales each year, according to the National Retail Federation. That number has increased from $ 450,000 in 2015.

Stolen goods, including high-quality clothing, handbags and power tools, end up in online marketplaces. A group of 20 retailers, including Nordstrom, Best Buy, and Home Depot, sent a letter to House and Senate leaders to pass laws that would prohibit people from remaining anonymous when selling goods online.

Sarah Wiltfong, senior policy manager at the Los Angeles County Business Federation, said since the robberies got out of hand, “many retailers and other businesses have almost given up because they feel like nothing is being done about it.”

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

Shopping center owners, retailers, and law enforcement agencies have increased security to tackle the wave of brazen thefts, but some say it’s not enough.

A representative from Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which operates malls in Sherman Oaks, Canoga Park, Century City and Culver City, said in a statement that “we are coordinating with local law enforcement and taking additional steps to ensure our property is kept so sure is “. as possible for retailers and buyers. “

Los Angeles district regulator Kathryn Barger said it will offer $ 1 million in discretionary funding to build law enforcement services in the district’s unincorporated areas and communities in her district.

“The recent wave of smash-and-grab crime and various robberies are proof that criminals feel brave and inviolable – crimes are increasingly being committed in public,” said Barger in a statement in retail, shopping for loved ones or just enjoy the time-out at home. “

Southern California is not alone in the situation, however, according to LAPD chief Michel Moore, who said cities across California have seen an outbreak of attempted robberies since early November.

“What was striking about this low number of crimes was the amount of property stolen,” said Moore.

“We do not allow or tolerate these kinds of bold and reckless acts,” said Moore, promising that those involved will have consequences for their actions.

Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News / SCNG)

Governor Gavin Newsom said last month he would increase the California Highway Patrol’s budget to expand its organized retail theft task force. He also launched the Real Public Safety Plan, which focuses on new investments that “have robust new investments and ongoing coordination with local authorities to enable the devastating gun violence epidemic.”

“We’re redoubling our public safety investments and partnerships with law enforcement agencies across the state to ensure Californians and small businesses feel safe in their communities – a fundamental need we all share,” Newsom said in a statement.

Michelin of the President California Retailers Association praised the efforts.

She said persistent violent robberies could be a turning point for many businesses.

“That could be the last straw that could get people to re-evaluate whether they are still doing business in California,” she said.

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