The phenomenon -- in which police say armed suspects follow victims from restaurants and shopping areas such as Melrose Avenue and the Jewelry District to rob them of jewelry, watches or vehicles -- was "almost unheard of'' before last year, according to Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who leads the Follow Home Robbery Task Force created in November.
In September and October, the department's Robbery-Homicide Division began noticing a pattern of increased robberies involving multiple vehicles and multiple armed suspects coordinating to rob people of high-end vehicles and jewelry, Tippet said.
"In my 34 years in the LAPD, I have never seen this type of criminal behavior in such large groups coordinating to conduct attacks on unsuspecting citizens to take their property and/or vehicles,'' Tippet told the commission.
The department counted 51 "of these violent, armed robberies'' in September and October. The task force -- which includes 18 detectives, 11 investigators from Robbery-Homicide Division, four from the Office of Operations and three from the Detective Bureau -- was created on Nov. 23.
In dealing with follow-home robbery investigations, the task force adjusted the department's usual practice of waiting to identify all people involved in a robbery before making arrests, Tippet said.
"Due to the crisis, we began making arrests as quickly as possible once individuals were identified,'' he said, adding that was effective in reducing the number of the incidents. "This has been a major undertaking, however, I am confident that we are slowing this trend down,'' Tippet said.
Ten follow-home robberies were reported in March, a 78% decrease from a four-week period between October and November that saw 45 reported.
The department said the most incidents seen in a two-week period was 26 in November. In the most recent two-week period, only seven follow-home robberies were reported, and the two weeks before that saw only three follow-home robberies, Tippet said.
However, the department is investigating five follow-home robberies reported in the last 48 hours, Tippet said.
A total of 221 follow-home robberies have been reported between the task force's creation in November through April.
The department believes a total of 17 gangs from South Los Angeles are involved in the robberies, but many of them are allegedly from rival groups and are not working together.
As of April 10, the task force has handled one murder investigation involving four arrests, two attempted murder investigations, 125 robbery investigations, five attempted robbery investigations, five assault with a deadly weapon investigations, five grand theft investigations and two incidents in which shots were fired into inhabited dwelling, Tippet said.
The follow-home robberies have primarily occurred in the West Bureau, which had 130 reported, with 50 in the Hollywood area, 46 in the Wilshire area, 17 in the Pacific area and 15 in West L.A. The Central Bureau had 49 follow-home robberies, with 40 of them in the central area, including the Jewelry District in downtown Los Angeles.
Twenty-three of the incidents resulted in shots fired, with 13 people shot.
"We have seen countless individuals traumatized by having a gun pointed at them and (being) robbed ... many others are dealing with the trauma and injuries from being tackled, kicked, beaten, punched and are pistol whipped to the head. It's a miracle that more deaths have not occurred,'' Tippet said.
Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.