Watch CBS News

LA leaders establish a task force and hotline to address rash of retail "flash robs"

LA forms task force to tackle recent rash of flash mob robberies
LA forms task force to tackle recent rash of flash mob robberies 02:49

The Los Angeles mayor, police and sheriff departments announced a special task force for flash robs, announcing "regional action" for a coordinated, unified, and urgent approach to stop the trend in smash-and-grab, flash mob-style retail thefts.

Mayor Karen Bass kicked off the Thursday morning press conference where she announced the newly formed, multi-agency Organized Retail Crimes Task Force.

"Our number one job is to keep Angelenos safe and to feel safe. When incidents of brazen theft and robbery occur, it shatters that feeling of safety," said Mayor Bass.

She emphasized that business owners and shoppers shouldn't feel unsafe being in Los Angeles.

The task force will be centered in the San Fernando Valley, spearheaded by the Los Angeles Police Department, and includes the police departments from Burbank, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Marshall's Office, and the FBI. The force will partner with prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, the Los Angels City Attorney's Office, and the California Attorney General's Office.

The Mayor said a hotline has also been established for the retail task force. It's for anyone who has any information to call: (811) 374-9420, For nonbusiness hours and weekends call (877) 527-3247.

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher said the retail crimes committed over the last couple of months prompted the formation of the task force. He listed the series of crimes within the LAPD's jurisdiction.

  • July 3: Four suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks steal $32,000 of merchandise from Bloomingdales in the Westfield Century City Shopping Center. These supsects are seen leaving in a silver Camry.
  •  July 31: Ten to 15 suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks steal $100,000 worth of merchandise within minutes from a Gucci store in the Westfield Century City Shopping Center
  • Aug. 12:  A flash mob of  about 30 people wearing hooded sweatshirts and masksrush into Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga Shopping Center, spray a security guard with bear spray and steal $300,000 worth of merchandise.
  • Aug. 15: Eleven suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks rush into Ksubi, a high-end Hancock Park retail shop on La Brea Avenue, stealing $100,000 worth of merchandise. One suspect simulates a gun in his pocket to a security guard.

Deputy Chief Pitcher said the whole retail task force team will work together, as a network …"not to make this an LAPD-centric investigative effort, but also to all of the other entities that service the L.A. County region. We will be working effectively to go out and immediately identify, arrest these individuals and serve immediate search warrants and apprehend them and bring them in custody and put them before the prosecutors to ultimately obtain justice for this," said Pitcher. 

He said there will be 22 full-time investigators assigned to the task force, with three separate surveillance and apprehension teams. One district attorney will be embedded with the task force, and two investigators from D.A.'s office are committed to the task force, as other department investigation teams will be involved.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna his department has been dealing with these retail theft issues for over a year. He said his department is aware of at least 170 organized retail thefts including smash-and-grabs and flash mobs that occurred from the fall of 2021 through Aug. 16.

"We are not only focused on the individuals walking into these stores and committing the crimes that we see on video, but if you are supporting them logistically, either by being a driver, harboring them, buying merchandise, selling merchandise, you're in this chain," said Luna. He said everyone involved will be held accountable.

And as far as zero bail for the suspects, Pitcher said the task force will be working with prosecutors very carefully to make sure the suspects in each of these cases are charged to the greatest extent legally possible, being robbery. He said grand theft charges could mean bail release but robbery charges will be sought out as they apply.

Shortly following the announcement of the task force, Governor Gavin Newsom announced he has tripled the resources for California Highway Patrol in the Los Angeles region to crack down on retail theft.

"The state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to crack down on organized crime and when our local partners need further assistance, we're ready with a helping hand. The CHP is the proven leader in tackling organized retail theft and through this expanded partnership the agency will further assist the city in doing its job to keep Angelenos and their businesses safe," said Newsom.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.