Officials in California sent word earlier this week that they planned to crack down on “smash and grab” robberies and flash-mob-style looting after numerous recent incidents up and down the state.
But apparently not everybody got the message.
At least two such incidents occurred in Los Angeles County on Black Friday, according to reports.
In Lakewood, a group of suspects ages 15 to 20 stormed a Home Depot store around 8:30 p.m. and grabbed tools such as crowbars, mallets and sledgehammers before getting away in vehicles that were waiting outside, FOX 11 of Los Angeles reported.
One entire section of hammers was completely cleared out, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies told the station.
As many as 10 vehicles pulled up outside the store and the thieves donned ski masks before launching their spree, KCBS-TV of Los Angeles reported.
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The theft prompted fears that the stolen tools would be used to commit more robberies at other stores in the area, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told the station.
The Lakewood incident remained under investigation, FOX 11 reported.
Also Friday, in the Beverly Grove section of Los Angeles, a large group entered a Bottega Veneta store and used pepper spray against some who tried to stop them while grabbing high-end merchandise there, the station reported.
It was unclear how the suspects were able to enter the store or if police made any arrests, the station reported.
Earlier in the week, Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore told the city’s Police Commission that a heightened police presence would be in place within city limits on Black Friday to combat “smash and grab” robberies and flash-mob style crimes that have struck California and other locations in recent weeks.
The LAPD planned to be “dedicating resources to some of these higher-end locations to deter further acts of violence,” Moore told the panel Tuesday, according to FOX 11.
‘We’re all victimized’
Also Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called such crimes “unacceptable” during an interview with FOX 2 of the Bay Area.
Like Moore in Los Angeles, Newsom vowed a stronger police presence for other parts of the state.
“Everybody’s got to step things up,” Newsom said. “We need to see more law enforcement, see more deterrents, more presence. You’ve seen more, you’ll see even more CHP [California Highway Patrol] officers out on the roads.”
Newsom claimed that back in July he worked with mayors and police chiefs from 13 cities in the state on a plan to combat retail thefts.
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Despite recent incidents in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, Newsom insisted that authorities in the state have made “hundreds of arrests” and recovered “tens of millions of dollars” over that time. He vowed that stepped-up police efforts would continue.
“You’re going to see it in and around large shopping malls and centers, going to continue to work collaboratively to address these organized efforts and call them out,” Newsom told FOX 2. “They need to be held to account. This is unconscionable behavior. Its impact is well beyond the victim: the business. We’re all victimized because there’s a level of distrust, lack of confidence in public safety that is inherent in what’s happening. We need to be more aggressive.”
“This is unconscionable behavior. Its impact is well beyond the victim: the business. We’re all victimized because there’s a level of distrust, lack of confidence in public safety.”
According to FOX 11, other recent Los Angeles-area incidents have included:
On Wednesday, suspects entered several stores at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and ran off with merchandise.
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Also Wednesday, suspects attacked a security guard and stole about $25,000 in handbags from a Nordstrom store in Canoga Park.
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed also recently announced plans to combat rampant retail crimes. The plan includes new limits on how vehicles can access the city’s Union Square shopping district, Breed said last Saturday.
The San Francisco area has also seen recent flash-mob style robberies at a Louis Vuitton store in the city and a Nordstrom store in Walnut Creek, a suburb about 25 miles east of the city.