Flash mob robberies: Nike store in East LA targeted by thieves weekly, LASD says

Video shows two suspects running in with trash bags and taking off with about $1,000 worth of shoes and other items.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Nike store in East LA targeted by thieves weekly, LASD says
A shopper recorded two suspects stealing trash bags full of items from a Nike store in East L.A. Authorities say this particular store is targeted weekly by crooks.

EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It seems like these mob-style smash-and-grab robberies and burglaries happen all the time in the Los Angeles area.

In the most recent case, a shopper recorded two suspects stealing from a Nike store in East L.A. It happened on Sunday at the store on Whittier Boulevard.

The footage shows two suspects running in with trash bags and taking off with about $1,000 worth of shoes and other items. No injuries were reported.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said this particular store is targeted weekly.

Alhambra resident Candice Lopez, who was shopping at the store on Tuesday, said she witnessed a similar incident recently, where she saw thieves run off from the business with bags full of stolen merchandise.

"They booked it and went down the alley, and I'm like wow, that's crazy," she said. "It sucks because you know, us, we work hard for our money to pay for stuff that we need for our kids. I'm a single mother, so it's hard. And then to see people do stuff like that, it pisses me off."

Fellow customer Luz Hernandez said it's frustrating, because stores may start having to restrict how many customers can come into the establishment.

"You're probably going to have to monitor how many people can come in and out of the store, so you can try to prevent all these mobs coming in and taking over the store. I think that's what needs to happen," she said.

This comes after about 30 people stole more than $300,000 in merchandise from the Nordstrom store inside Westfield Topanga mall. Dressed in disguises and moving quickly, they all escaped.

Mob-style smash-and-grab robbery at Nordstrom store inside Topanga mall leaves shoppers on edge

Shocking video captured a mob-style smash-and-grab robbery at a mall in Topanga and police are now searching for up to 30 suspects involved.

The LAPD said the department is in contact with other law enforcement departments, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, to see if any of these mob-style robberies are connected. Authorities say it's too soon to say if they are linked.

"Whether or not they're linked, they are organized, and my sense is that they are linked," said L.A. Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff at a Los Angeles Police Commission meeting Tuesday. Another point discussed at the meeting was a possible reward that was in the works for information leading to arrest in these cases.

Data from the Los Angeles Police Department shows in 2022, only about a quarter of such robberies led to an arrest. Since then, leaders in law enforcement and business communities are saying enough is enough.

"We've got to get our elected officials to change some laws, enforce the laws we have and hold people accountable - especially these criminals that are doing it over and over again," said developer Rick Caruso, owner of the Grove and other SoCal retail centers.

One of Caruso's properties, the Americana in Glendale, was targeted by a similar flash-mob style burglary theft last week. The week before that, another group ran out of Westfield Century City's Gucci store with arms full of bags, even luggage in tow.

"I cringe when I see these national stories about California because that's not what we're about," said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association. "These aren't the values of the people who live in California."

An ABC7 analysis of retail robberies, burglaries and thefts reported by the LAPD show these types of crimes over the last 12 months are the highest they've been since at least 2010.

L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna is exploring crime centers, to help the response time.

"Where there are either government cameras, private cameras that are giving an indication of activity that may be occurring and then give us the ability to respond even faster to some of these," Luna said.

However, leaders are divided over what to do when the thieves are actually caught. Efforts to amend California's shoplifting and petty theft laws have failed and L.A. County has reinstated zero-bail for nonviolent, low-level offenses.

On Monday, District Attorney George Gascón said these crimes go beyond that.

"We view them as organized crime, and we will use every tool available under the law when there is an arrest made to make sure that these individuals are held accountable," Gascón said.

Gascón said people who buy the goods are part of the problem by perpetuating demand. Technically it's illegal to knowingly buy stolen goods but the "knowingly" part makes it more difficult to enforce and prosecute.