Bass announces task force targeting smash-and-grab robberies

Following a string of flash mob robberies of luxury goods stores around Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass on Thursday announced a new task force of local and federal agencies to target the crimes.

The heists have drawn national attention, with video clips showing robbers running out of stores.

Bass’ announcement came hours after Glendale detectives carried out a early morning arrest in the Aug. 8 robbery of a Yves Saint Laurent store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale.

Glendale Police Chief Manuel Cid, who joined Bass at Thursday’s news conference, said police also identified a second suspect and are looking for the individual.


In Los Angeles, police are investigating a brazen daytime robbery of the Nordstrom at the Topanga mall on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The criminals used bear spray on a security guard, police said.

On Aug. 1, a Gucci store at the Westfield Century City Mall was also hit by a group.

“No Angeleno should feel like it’s not safe to go shopping in Los Angeles,” Bass said. “No entrepreneur should feel like it’s not safe to open a business.”

Bass advised the public to call 911 if they see a store robbery underway. She also announced a hotline for tips on apprehending the smash-and-grab robbers.

The task force will consist of the LAPD, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and representatives from the police departments of Glendale, Burbank, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. State and federal agencies, including the FBI, will also play a role.


LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher, who oversees detectives, said the task force will use informants, cyber investigators and other tactics.

LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi told reporters that “criminals don’t distinguish between city borders and county borders and so we need this task force to effectively address this issue.”

Choi said prosecutors will be embedded in the task force, which will also target those who buy stolen goods. Police are also urging shoppers not to make purchases from unlicensed retail vendors or unverified social media sources.

Bass’ office, in a news release, said the task force will partner with prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón told KNX News Thursday that his office wasn’t invited to Bass’ news event, which featured several law enforcement representatives.

A Bass spokesperson didn’t immediately provide a comment about Gascón’s remarks.

L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna said his department is aware of 170 recent organized retail thefts.

Luna said one store — believed to be the Nike store in East L.A. — had been hit several times and $83,000 in merchandise was stolen during the last six months.

He said the department has 20 pending crime cases and made 16 arrests and has three additional cases where the suspects have been identified.

Bass told reporters that she expected the flash mob trend to be an “aberration” and she likened it to other trends, such as “follow home” crimes, that police said they have tamped down on in recent years.

Overall, crime is down in 2023 in Los Angeles compared with 2022.

In the instance involving the Yves Saint Laurent store, Glendale Police Chief Cid said Isaac Ramirez, 23, of Los Angeles was taken into custody. Cid said a second suspect, Brianna Jimenez, 21, is being sought in the heist. Search warrants in the case yielded firearms, Cid said.

The robbery lasted just three minutes and more than $400,000 in merchandise was stolen from the store, Cid said.

The Caruso company, owner of the Americana at Brand, has offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects involved in the Yves Saint Laurent heist.

Days before the luxury store was targeted, a group also unsuccessfully tried to break into Gucci at Americana at Brand, Cid said.

Separately, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday the state would triple California Highway Patrol resources in the Los Angeles area to help combat organized retail theft.

“The state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to crack down on organized crime and when our local partners need further assistance, we’re ready with a helping hand,” Newsom said in a statement.