Small, sit-down restaurants are replacing banks as the target of choice for robbers in southern California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The newspaper said upwards of 200 restaurants have been robbed in the San Fernando Valley alone in the past two years. At the same time, bank robberies have plunged, with 455 reported in southern California last year.
Los Angeles police detectives told the Times that the restaurants have become a tempting target for robbers, who can quickly make off with several thousand dollars in cash without facing any of the security precautions routinely taken by banks.
Typically, gangs of armed robbers wearing masks invade the restaurants at closing time, when the owners are counting the cash receipts from the day.
"Criminals rob restaurants for the same reasons they rob banks: That's where the money is," LAPD Cmdr. Charlie Beck told the newspaper. "[Restaurants] don't have security guards. They don't have security cameras."
The holdups can end violently. Last year, masked robbers shot and killed a man at a Thai restaurant in Northridge, Calif.