Los Angeles is launching a task force to combat the uptick in retail theft, including organized smash-and-grab robberies involving large groups of thieves.

The Organized Retail Crimes Task Force was announced Thursday by Mayor Karen Bass, the LAPD, and several other law enforcement agencies, follows a chaotic week that saw two smash-and-grab robberies by large groups in the Los Angeles area.

Over the weekend, a mob of nearly 50 people in hoodies and masks stole up to $100,000 in luxury merchandise from a Nordstrom in Los Angeles. The thieves also attacked security guards with bear mace.

Last week, a group of 30 to 40 thieves robbed an Yves Saint Laurent store in southern California in broad daylight on Tuesday, absconding with an estimated $300,000 worth of merchandise, police said.

Footage from the incident shows over a dozen people mostly dressed in dark clothes, hoods, and masks dashing into the store and running out again, their arms full of the expensive merchandise.

The brazen smash-and-grab robbery was caught on video just before 5 p.m. The store is located at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, just north of Los Angeles. The Glendale police chief joined the Los Angeles officials in announcing the task force.

Police said Thursday that they had arrested the first suspect in the robbery. A 23-year-old man was charged with organized retail theft, burglary, grand theft, and conspiracy.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Thursday, “What we’ve seen over just the past week in the City of Los Angeles and in surrounding regions is unacceptable, which is why today we are here announcing action.”

“These are not victimless crimes – especially in the case where Angelenos were attacked – through force or fear – as they did their jobs or ran errands,” she said, adding that the task force will “aggressively investigate” these incidents and hold the perpetrators “fully accountable.”

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LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said retail theft not only affects businesses financially, but also has a broader impact on the “overall well-being of our community.”

“Together, we can create an environment where our streets and businesses are safe from the scourge of retail theft,” Choi said.

Los Angeles has been plagued by rampant retail and personal theft in recent months.

Most types of violent crime are down in Los Angeles except theft, which is up 15% to more than 20,409 thefts compared to this time last year, according to police data.

Since the fall of 2021, Los Angeles County has seen at least 170 organized retail thefts, including the smash-and-grab trend, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

Late last month, police said another group of masked thieves stole $900,000 worth of merchandise from a jewelry store in Irvine just south of Los Angeles and Glendale.

Organized retail theft is on the rise nationally as well.

Incidents like the ones Los Angeles has seen increased by about 27% in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.

The top ten cities with the most retail crime include New York, Houston, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, and Dallas.

Critics argue that the thieves are emboldened by California’s progressive prosecutors, who rarely force the shoplifters to face significant criminal consequences.

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