Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass announced a new Organized Retail Crime Task Force Thursday amid a disturbing rise in so-called smash-and-grab robberies. The coalition will consist of personnel from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol, Glendale Police Department, Burbank Police Department, Beverly Hills Police Department, Santa Monica Police Department, U.S. Marshals Apprehension Task Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The task force will also partner with prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Bass said.
Regionwide cooperation is critical because “criminals don’t distinguish between city borders and county borders,” noted LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi at the Thursday news conference.
“No Angeleno should feel like it’s not safe to go shopping in Los Angeles,” Mayor Bass stated. “No entrepreneur should feel like it’s not safe to open a business.”
As part of the effort, LA has established a retail theft hotline at (811) 374-9420 or (877) 527-3247 for nonbusiness hours and weekends.
There was one notable absence at Thursday’s announcement — Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. The top prosecutor has confirmed he was not invited to the event. Bass attempted to downplay the apparent snub in an interview with Fox LA’s Elex Michaelson. But given the key role of the DA’s office in prosecuting these crimes, Gascón’s absence was noteworthy.
Asked if she’s confident Gascón would act aggressively to hold thieves accountable, Bass seemed to hedge.
"I have not talked to the DA, but I don't have any reason to believe he wouldn't,” she said.
Gascón was asked some tough questions about the impact of his policies at a presser last week, following a viral flash robbery at the Topanga Mall. He became defensive with reporters. On a recent ABC 7 morning segment, LA Police Chief Michel Moore excoriated $0 bail and other changes for "weakening the consequences under the law for many repeat offenders” and promoting lawlessness.
The latest statistics show crime has fallen in LA this year. But organized retail crimes keep rising, leading to jarring videos like this one.
The state also has a role to play. On the same day that Mayor Bass unveiled LA’s new task force, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would triple California Highway Patrol resources around the LA area to help combat organized theft.