Flash mobs of robbers shatter windows, ransack luxury stores nationwide


(KTLA) — The storefront windows of the Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Beverly Hills were smashed during attempted burglaries overnight Sunday.

The attempted burglaries were reported around 12:30 a.m., according to the Beverly Hills Police Department.

“Multiple suspects traveling in several vehicles descended on the locations and used a sledgehammer to try to break through front windows,” Beverly Hills police Sgt. Anthony Adams told KTLA.

The burglars did not get into the stores, and nothing was taken, according to police.

Police, supported by armed private security, have increased patrols in the area, the sergeant said.

The attempted burglaries in Beverly Hills came just one day after about 80 people ransacked a Nordstrom in the San Francisco Bay Area. Police called it “clearly a planned event.”

That incident also came after Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana in San Francisco’s Union Square were all targeted Friday night by a large group of people who smashed windows and stole merchandise, police said. Union Square is a posh shopping district popular with tourists that was teeming with holiday shoppers.

The thefts are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit mainly young people to steal merchandise in stores throughout the country then sell it in online marketplaces. The thefts are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season gets underway, experts and officials said.

These “flash mobs” are usually organized by local people who recruit their crews and send them to steal specific merchandise requested by criminal organizations throughout the country, said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail.

Retailers lose about $65 billion each year to organized theft, the bulk stolen by professional thieves. Criminal flash mobs are part of a growing national trend, Dugan said.

Adams said he didn’t know if the Bay Area incidents were related to what happened in Beverly Hills.

No arrests have been reported in the Beverly Hills attempted burglaries, and no description of the suspects was available. The Beverly Hills Police Department is still investigating the incident.

In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that allows prosecutors to charge those who work with others to steal merchandise. He said this year’s state budget included millions of dollars for local officials to address retail theft, and his January budget proposal will include an “exponential increase of support to help cities and counties.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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