Los Angeles Forms The ‘Smash and Grab Task Force’, Will It Be Effective?

August 24, 2023 by Anastasiia Ponomarova in California  Special Report  
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The Spate of Smash and Grab Robberies in Los Angeles

Over the past few months, Los Angeles has experienced a series of high-profile smash and grab robberies that have shaken the local community and garnered national attention. These incidents involve groups of criminals, often numbering in the dozens, storming into luxury stores and shopping centers, wreaking havoc, and making off with valuable merchandise. One such incident occurred at the Nordstrom store in the Topanga Mall, where a group of over 30 individuals, dressed in black and with their faces covered, stole approximately $300,000 worth of luxury goods. Similar robberies have occurred at other high-end stores, including Yves Saint Laurent and Ksubi clothing.

The frequency and scale of these robberies have raised concerns about the safety of shoppers and the financial impact on businesses. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, along with leaders from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, have denounced these robberies as unacceptable and vowed to take action to protect the community.

Los Angeles Forms The Smash and Grab Task Force

The task force will not only focus on apprehending the robbers but also target the buyers of stolen items.

In response to the escalating wave of smash and grab robberies, Los Angeles law enforcement officials have established a dedicated task force to combat this organized crime. The task force, consisting of officers from various law enforcement agencies in the region, aims to target the groups of robbers responsible for these brazen thefts. Led by LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, the task force will be based in the San Fernando Valley and will be equipped with the necessary resources to effectively investigate and apprehend these criminals.

The task force, comprising at least 22 full-time officers, will utilize a range of investigative techniques and tools to identify and apprehend the individuals involved in these robberies. This includes leveraging cell tower dumps, cyber investigators, and various databases at the city, county, state, and national levels. Informants will also play a crucial role in gathering intelligence and assisting in the front and back end of the investigations.

Additionally, the task force will not only focus on apprehending the robbers but also target the buyers of stolen items. Law enforcement officials suspect that these criminal groups have established networks of buyers ready to purchase the stolen merchandise. By targeting both the supply and demand sides of the criminal operation, the task force aims to dismantle these organized crime networks and deter future smash and grab robberies.

The Factors Driving Smash and Grab Robberies

Several factors contribute to the rise of smash and grab robberies in Los Angeles. One key factor is the lucrative black market created by online marketplaces. Criminal syndicates recruit individuals, often young people, to steal specific merchandise from stores, offering them cash incentives of $500 to $1,000 per theft. These stolen goods are then sold anonymously on online platforms, making it difficult to trace and recover the stolen merchandise.

Another factor contributing to the prevalence of smash and grab robberies is the lighter sentences for thieves under California’s Proposition 47. This proposition, passed in 2014, reclassified certain non-violent property crimes as misdemeanors if the value of the stolen goods does not exceed $950. This lenient approach to theft, combined with a zero cash bail policy, has emboldened criminals and created an environment conducive to these brazen robberies.

Furthermore, the decriminalization of low-level offenses and the reluctance of law enforcement to pursue retail criminals have also played a role in the rise of smash and grab robberies. With reduced consequences and a perception of leniency, criminals feel empowered to engage in these criminal activities without fear of significant punishment.

The Impact on Retailers and the Community

The surge in smash and grab robberies has had a significant impact on both retailers and the community at large. Retailers have suffered substantial financial losses, with an estimated $68 billion in annual losses attributed to retail theft. These losses not only affect businesses’ bottom lines but also result in increased prices for consumers to offset the losses. Moreover, the frequency and brazenness of these robberies have instilled fear in both workers and customers, undermining the sense of safety and security within the community.

Combating Smash and Grab Robberies: The Way Forward

To effectively combat smash and grab robberies, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Law enforcement agencies, in collaboration with online marketplaces, must tighten security measures and enhance transparency to prevent stolen goods from being sold on their platforms. The proposed Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act (INFORM Act) seeks to address these concerns by requiring online platforms to verify the identities of high-volume sellers and provide upfront contact information.

Additionally, legislators must revisit the sentencing guidelines for theft crimes to ensure that they act as a deterrent. Stricter penalties and a comprehensive approach to addressing organized crime networks involved in smash and grab robberies are essential. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies should prioritize the investigation and prosecution of these crimes to send a strong message that these actions will not be tolerated.

Collaboration between law enforcement, retailers, and the community is also crucial. Establishing neighborhood watch programs, implementing advanced security measures in retail establishments, and fostering community engagement can contribute to deterring smash and grab robberies. By working together, the community can create a safer environment for both businesses and residents.

In conclusion, the rise of smash and grab robberies in Los Angeles has prompted the creation of a dedicated task force to combat this organized crime. Factors such as the black market created by online marketplaces, lenient sentencing guidelines, and reduced consequences for theft crimes have contributed to the prevalence of these robberies. To address this issue, a comprehensive approach involving law enforcement, legislation, online platforms, retailers, and the community is necessary. By taking decisive action, Los Angeles can reclaim its reputation as a safe and thriving city for both residents and visitors.


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