Sometimes the thieves entered toting trash bags. In other instances, the culprits burst through department stores, hauling away what they could carry in their arms. In one case, a man nonchalantly walked out of a retail venue with roughly $1,000 in pilfered handbags.
Video surveillance and reports released in the last two days by police displayed the ease and speed of flash mob thefts at retail stores in Riverside and Arcadia, the latest crimes in a spate that has struck businesses throughout the region over the last few weeks.
Riverside police released security footage Tuesday from two burglaries committed about a month apart at the Nordstrom Rack at Canyon Springs Marketplace in Riverside.
In the first incident, on July 10, a flash mob of at least seven people entered and exited the store in under a minute, according to the footage.
The group can be seen heading toward the handbag rack, taking dozens of purses and leaving only black models on the shelf.
Some people sling the bags over their shoulders, while others carry as many as possible as they run out the store. Only one is wearing a surgical mask as the others make little effort to conceal their faces.
The group pilfered more than $10,000 in high-end handbags, said Ryan Railsback, public information officer at the Riverside Police Department.
That Nordstrom Rack is a popular target for thieves because it was relatively new, having opened last fall, he said, adding that the store is at the outskirts of the city and borders Moreno Valley, taking longer for police to respond.
“We typically get more thefts in that area, and it’s pretty close to a freeway too,” Railsback said.
Riverside police released the video to encourage the public to identify any of the suspects, who Railsback believes are from outside Riverside. He also said he hopes that if the burglars see the footage in the media, they’ll be less likely to return.
“I hope the suspects will see their faces and say, ‘Oh crap, I can’t go back there,’” Railsback said.
The second burglary occurred on Aug. 14 when a single man is seen on surveillance footage running out the front entrance with a set of handbags. Railsback placed the merchandise value at $1,000.
“It’s brazen to walk in without a mask and not even attempt to conceal yourself,” he said.
Railsback said Riverside detectives were working with other agencies to identify the thieves.
He pointed to cross-agency efforts, such as Los Angeles’ task force launched last week by Mayor Karen Bass, which will include local and federal resources, as part of a crackdown on the crime spree.
The agency was developed after flash mobs targeted the Westfield Topanga Nordstrom Rack, the Yves Saint Laurent store at the Americana at Brand in Glendale and other stores this month.
The problem, Railsback said, is not so much the crime but the lack of lengthy jail sentences.
“That multi-jurisdictional task force is great, but what is the law going to do when they catch these criminals?” he asked. “If they’re not getting any jail time or very little, there isn’t much deterrence.”
Like Riverside, the Arcadia Police Department is dealing with its own flash mob crime.
Five people broke into the Macy’s at the Shops at Santa Anita in Arcadia on Tuesday afternoon, according to a police report.
Video shows thieves in hoodies and surgical masks dumping perfume boxes and display bottles into black trash bags. One shopper looked on as the group hauled in Dior products.
The thieves fled out the store’s south entrance and jumped into a black, four-door sedan, according to Arcadia police.
A spokesperson for Macy’s said the store was providing professional support, including counseling, for employees.
The spokesperson said Macy’s was cooperating with law enforcement.
Arcadia police provided no other information, including an estimated value of the stolen goods but noted that an investigation was underway.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.