A search was continuing Monday for more than two dozen culprits who carried out a mob-style smash-and-grab robbery at Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón insisting the perpetrators will be held accountable.
The Saturday afternoon melee involving as many as 30 people inside the Nordstrom store at the mall led to the theft of merchandise valued by police at about $300,000. It followed a similar heist carried out last week by a mob of thieves at an Yves Saint Laurent store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, with the loss also estimated at $300,000.
Some critics, including Americana at Brand owner and former L.A. mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, have questioned whether law enforcement and the justice system were doing enough to hold offenders accountable. He said a recent change in state law approved by voters, making certain levels of property theft a misdemeanors instead of felonies, has removed the fear of punishment and emboldened criminals.
“The time has come to demand that our elected officials change the laws to hold criminals accountable and start enforcing the laws in a fair and equitable manner,” Caruso said in a statement last week following the heist at Americana at Brand. “Retail businesses and small and large shopping areas are experiencing an alarming increase in `smash and grab’ robberies. I have heard directly from small business owners who feel defeated by the lack of accountability for criminals.”
Speaking to reporters Monday, Gascón insisted that his office is being aggressive about prosecutions in such mob-style robberies, treating them as organized crime felonies, not simple misdemeanors.
“We’ve got a team of people that have been working in the Glendale case and other cases, and will continue to do so,” he said. “We assigned our organized crime division to work on these cases about a year and a half ago. 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 these individuals are held accountable. This is unacceptable behavior in a civilized society.”
Gascón said there are people in the community who can identify the robbers, with some people even buying stolen merchandise from the heist, and they also need to be held accountable.
While his department is not directly involved in the Glendale or Canoga Park cases, Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters the sheriff’s department will coordinate with other law enforcement.
“We’re going to be communicating, we’re going to investigate and we’re going to assist in any way we can,” Luna said. “But I guarantee you, once we get the evidence where we can take people into custody, we’re going to take them into custody and go from there.”
The Nordstrom robbery occurred just after 4 p.m. Saturday at the store at 21725 Victory Blvd., east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, according to spokesman Pedro Muniz of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Cell phone video posted on Twitter showed male and female suspects — most wearing masks, hoodies or other identity-concealing garb — smashing displays, grabbing clothing and bags and running from the store.
There were at least 30 people involved, police said.
The mall was not evacuated, but an ambulance was summoned to treat a security guard at the store’s entrance who was sprayed with bear spray, according to police.
Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement condemning the crime.
“What happened today at the Nordstrom in the Topanga Mall is absolutely unacceptable,” Bass said. “Those who committed these acts and acts like it in neighboring areas must be held accountable. The Los Angeles Police Department will continue to work to not only find those responsible for this incident but to prevent these attacks on retailers from happening in the future.”
The LAPD issued a statement Monday urging anyone with information to contact Det. Santander at 818-374-9420, or during off-hours, at 877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247). Information can also be sent to ORC@lapd.online, or anonymously through CrimeStoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or lacrimestoppers.org.
The Yves Saint Laurent heist in Glendale occurred about 4:50 p.m. Aug. 8. That crime was also captured on video, which was widely circulated.
Source: NBC Los Angeles