Some store owners along Melrose Avenue in L.A.’s Fairfax District said Tuesday there’s been less foot traffic and more crime in the area as police search for suspects in a series of recent robberies.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the temporary, recurring closures of many restaurants and retail stores throughout Los Angeles and the rest of the country. Along Melrose, known for its high-end streetwear shops, many stores remained shuttered while others are welcoming customers.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department warned of an increase in the number of people being robbed at gunpoint in the trendy shopping area. Over the last few weeks, seven robberies have involved Rolex watches, police said.
“In the past six months, the street has gone downhill,” said a local store owner who has been in the area for about 20 years. He spoke on-camera but asked to remain anonymous. “Honestly, like people used to come here and shop, enjoy themselves. No longer are you seeing that.”
On Jan. 30, a shopper was assaulted by a pair of men who jumped out of car and started tackling him to the ground as he walked along a sidewalk after leaving a nearby store. Video released by LAPD shows the robbers attack him just around 4 p.m.
The footage shows the men appear to hold the victim down while one of the assailants appears to pull out a handgun. Police said they stole a number of items including a Rolex watch — mirroring the circumstances of several daytime robberies in the area since then.
Dom Deluca, owner of Melrose Skate Shop, said the person robbed was a customer of his, and the security footage came from his store.
“That day, I’m in my office, and that’s where the cameras are,” Deluca said. “I’m not paying attention. I hear a car racing through the alleyway, and I’m like, ‘Who the hell?'”
“And I look, and there he is getting jumped,” Deluca said, describing the victim as “all busted up.”
According to LAPD, robbers involved in the recent crimes follow the victims from nearby restaurants and stores in vehicles, waiting until they reach more isolated areas before attacking. Investigators believe the assailants are targeting people wearing high-end jewelry.
“There needs to be some sort of consequence for these people or else business is going to suffer, people are going to suffer,” said the business owner who spoke anonymously.
Deluca, who’s had his store in the area for several years, suggested stiffer penalties for committing robberies and more police patrols to fix the problem.
“I’ve been here for so long,” Deluca said. “I’ve never ever, ever, ever, ever seen it this bad.”