The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Friday said that more than a dozen suspects who were arrested in connection to a recent smash-and-grab retail theft spree that has hit several local businesses have been released.
Speaking at a news conference, LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Mayor Eric Garcetti, said none of the alleged thieves remain in custody, noting that one of the suspects is a minor.
“In the 14 arrests that have been made, all the suspects taken into custody are out of custody, either as a result of one juvenile, or the others as a result of bailing out or zero-bail criteria,” Moore said.
The suspects are believed to be connected in 11 instances of robberies and assaults on store employees that took place from mid-to-end November. The smash-and-grab-style crimes include four robberies, six burglaries, and one grand theft, Moore explained.
Several suspects worked in tandem to steal from various stores, sometimes employing force and intimidation to overwhelm employees during the 11 crimes, the police chief said.
“$338,000 worth of property was stolen across the 11 robberies, which also caused more than $40,000 worth of property damage,” Moore said.
In one of the incidents that happened on Nov. 24, five people entered the Nordstrom store at the Westfield Topanga and the Village shopping mall in Canoga Park, sprayed the security guard with bear spray, and fled with designer handbags worth an estimated $25,000.
Garcetti stressed on Friday that there are suspects who have been released again, but actually need to be behind bars.
“There are people who need to be behind bars,” Garcetti said. “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 14 suspects are back on the streets because of California’s zero-bail policy that was established last year to reduce the prison population during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The California Supreme Court ruled in March that judges must consider suspects’ ability to pay when they set bail, essentially requiring that indigent defendants be freed unless they are deemed too dangerous to be released awaiting trial.
“The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” the justices said in a unanimous decision.
Garcetti said that multiple cases of the state’s “zero bail” have come up in numerous crime incidents, with one example being a car-theft suspect being arrested 13 times over 12 weeks.
“We need the help of our criminal justice system, of our judges,” the mayor said. “How many times does the same person have to steal a car—3, 4, or 5 times after being released, before we realize” that they should remain in jail until their court date.
Moore noted that authorities believe much of the stolen merchandise is being resold, urging the public to call 911 when noticing something suspicious.