In announcing arrests in a recent rash of brazen “flash mob style” smash-and-grab robberies, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday called for ending the county’s $0 bail policy.
The calls came as officials were announcing 14 arrests from 11 incidents that happened between Nov. 18 and 28 and resulted in nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise being stolen, including from the Nordstrom at The Grove, a Lululemon in Studio City, a Fairfax district store and a CVS pharmacy in South L.A.
Officials said all the suspects arrested were already out of police custody. Some were bailed out, others fit the zero-bail criteria and one is a juvenile, according to LAPD.
The zero–bail policy applies to misdemeanors and lower-level felonies and is meant to reduce crowding at L.A. County jails during the pandemic.
“As we evolved through this, there’s criminal elements that are recognizing that condition, and are capitalizing on it,” Moore said during a Thursday news conference.
Officials are concerned about those being let out from behind bars becoming repeat offenders as they await their arraignments.
Moore pointed to a robbery at a Nordstrom’s that involved smashed windows and a caravan of cars fleeing the location, triggering a “lengthy and dangerous pursuit” that ended with the arrests of three people.
Two of them had criminal histories, Moore said.
“Zero bail poses a challenge when their next court appearance is in March,” he added.
Garcetti echoed the police chief’s remarks, saying COVID-19 restrictions ended for many businesses, and it should be the same for the jails.
“There are people who need to be behind bars,” Garcetti said. “How many times does the same person have to steal a car, three, four or five times, after being released before we realize we have opened up a lot of the city, because we’re in a better place with COVID, we should be able to also open up our jails, and we should be able to have judges that put people behind those bars as well.”
The chief said auto-thefts are up in the city for the first time after a decade of decline, and he attributed the spike to the crime being considered a zero-bail offense.
“The people stealing them are the chronic offenders,” Moore said. “And so that’s where the criminal justice system needs to make those adjustments.”
While Moore said one of the challenges is that the perpetrators aren’t deterred from repeating the crime when their arraignments are months away, the bigger issue is that they make others think there are no consequences.
But on the contrary, the police chief said, the robbers are being found, arrested and charged.
“There are consequences and there will be lasting consequences upon individuals,” Moore said.
The recent rash of “flash-mob style” robberies have mainly targeted high-end retailers, and began in L.A. after first being reported in other parts of the country, including the Bay Area, Chicago and New York.
The robberies typically involved groups of people, often armed, descending on a business in a caravan of cars, busting into the location, grabbing merchandise and driving away with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items.
Police believe the robbers use social media to plan the crimes, and often scout for vulnerable locations.
At one point, LAPD declared a citywide tactical alert after seeing six smash-and-grab incidents in a short period of time.
Police believe the stolen merchandise — some of which has been found with the tags still on — is being resold to “unscrupulous” buyers and at swap meets.
The chief said the added security and police presence is already deterring robbers.
“The Declaration of the tactical alert, the visible appointment of uniform officers and the allocation of more than 2,000 hours of additional overtime has provided us with the resources, that I’m happy to report in this early juncture, has stemmed this practice,“ Moore said.