LA luxury mall latest to be hit by smash-and-grab thieves

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A group of thieves smashed windows at a department store at a luxury mall in Los Angeles, triggering a police pursuit just days after high-end stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area were targetted.

The latest incident in a national trend of smash-and-grab crimes targetted a Nordstrom store at The Grove retail and entertainment complex. It came as the country’s largest consumer electronics chain said an increase in organised theft was taking a toll on its bottom line.

Workers covered a large broken window at the Nordstrom with black plywood on Tuesday morning as security guards and shoppers alike came in and out of the store. Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department Michel Moore, said the agency would beef up its visible patrols around high-end stores citywide beginning Tuesday night and into the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend.

Crimes like these “have a profoundly greater impact on the sense of safety and security than simply the dollar loss of the merchandise”, Moore said.

The thieves struck around 10.40pm on Monday, using a sledgehammer and an e-bike to break the window’s glass, Moore said. About 20 people were involved in the smash-and-grab theft, stealing about USD5,000 worth of merchandise and leaving roughly USD15,000 worth of damage to the store when they fled. Officers pursued an SUV involved in the crime, and the chase ended with three people – including a juvenile – arrested. Officers found Nordstrom merchandise in the SUV, as well as items that appeared to be stolen during a CVS burglary earlier in the day.

The Grove incident followed a weekend of similar brazen thefts in the San Francisco Bay Area and Beverly Hills in which groups of people, some carrying crowbars and hammers, ransacked high-end stores and stole jewellery, sunglasses, suitcases, clothing and other merchandise before fleeing in waiting cars.

Prosecutors from seven Bay Area counties said they will make a joint effort to combat organised retail theft and met on Tuesday with a representative of the state attorney general’s office to discuss a partnership to “develop effective solutions to breaking up the fencing networks that are driving this kind of crime,” said a statement from the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Boudin also announced that felony charges had been filed against nine people for a series of Friday night thefts involving a Louis Vuitton store and a Walgreens.

A security guard stands outside the Nordstrom store in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AP