Smash-and-grab robbery crime wave continues

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Thieves from Los Angeles to New York have been caught on camera smashing through windows and using crowbars to grab whatever they can in seconds, stealing thousands of dollars worth of goods.

A flurry of those incidents have been in the Los Angeles area. A group of five thieves stole purses from a Nordstrom in the Los Angeles neighborhood shopping center in Canoga Park last week. Just a few days before that, the storefront windows of the Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Beverly Hills were smashed during a robbery.

Police are now on high alert as holiday shopping ramps up across the country.

In Minnesota, police said a group of 20 to 30 people Friday ran out of a Burnsville Best Buy with stolen goods. Another group of 10 to 12 stole high-value items from a Best Buy in Maplewood, Minnesota, police said. No arrests have been made yet.

In another incident in Lakewood, California, police say eight or nine men entered a Home Depot and stole $400 worth of tools including hammers, crowbars and wrenches.

“They were walking to the front end, and they had the gates closed and they said that they had the sledgehammers ready to hit people who are trying to stop them,” said Luis, a Home Depot employee.

The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department said four people were arrested in connection to that robbery.

In Oakland, police tweeted that they will have additional staffing to address the increase in violent crime. High-end stores in the San Francisco Bay area were hit for jewelry, sunglasses and suitcases among other items. In Los Angeles and Chicago, police task forces are targeting rental trucks, which are often used in flash mob smash-and-grabs.

“We are familiar with stolen U-Hauls being used in break-ins and other crimes,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters.

In a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Chicago, New York and Miami were listed as the top U.S. cities for organized retail crime, including shoplifting and robbery.

Top items stolen, experts say, include designer clothes and handbags and high-end liquor, plus more common items such as laundry detergent, allergy medicine and razors.

Much of the merchandise stolen in retail thefts in the U.S. makes its way to large warehouses, from which it is resold, most frequently online.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Jason Brewer of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “It’s a growing problem, and it all comes back to the ease of selling stolen product anonymously online.”

A spokesperson for Best Buy told NewsNation that the company is now campaigning at the federal level to make it harder to resell stolen goods online. They believe that could deter criminals and lower incentives to participate in the smash and grab crimes.

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