Flash mob robberies have gotten so out of control in Los Angeles that the LAPD created a new task force solely for taking down individuals involved in organized retail crime.
The new team, dubbed the Organized Retail Crimes Task Force, made 11 arrests in its first week operating related to cases where thieves targeted several of LA’s high-end luxury shops, including the high-profile ransacking of Nordstrom and Versace, the department announced Thursday.
Flash mob theft entails the coordinated efforts of criminals operating in sizable groups to pilfer stores, usually pre-planning robberies through social media.
“Most troubling recently has been the escalation of individuals using weapons, fear and terror as they attack retail establishments,” the LAPD stated in a news release last week.
The task force includes 22 assigned full-time investigators from the county sheriff department, four neighboring police departments, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and federal partners.
The assistance is crucial due to the department’s current shortage; this month, the police department’s officer count dropped below 9,000—a figure not seen since the 1990s.
“What we’re seeing in Los Angeles is that very high-end items [are stolen] because there is just a huge resale market for them,” Los Angeles Police Protective League spokesperson Tom Saggau told Fox News Digital previously. “It’s really difficult for a short-staffed police department to track all those types of things down.”
In a press conference last week, LA Mayor Karen Bass emphasized the seriousness of the thefts, saying “if someone commits a crime, we’ll catch you.”
Many of the retail theft cases are linked to other retail crimes which occurred in neighboring cities, the LAPD noted.
But the situation has escalated to the point where even Gov. Gavin Newsom is allocating millions of dollars to assist the city, resulting in a threefold increase in the resources available to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
“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,” Newsom said, Fox 11 reported.
The ramifications of the zero cash bail policy—which refers to individuals who are arrested and charged with a crime but then released from custody without having to pay any bail money upfront—may also prompt officials to treat all chargeable offenses as robberies.
Organized retail crime rose in popularity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and has caused more than $100 billion in product losses across the U.S., according to a 2022 National Retail Security Survey.