A surge in "smash-and-grab" robberies at luxury stores this week forced the retailers and police in southern California to increase in security on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving that traditionally marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States.
"We are concerned like everyone across the country knows about the retail business crime," Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of the South Coast Plaza, told Xinhua on Friday.
Monday evening, three to five masked men wearing black clothes and hoodies burst into an upscale restaurant in the mall and told customers to "get down" before running off with a purse and fleeing in a white car.
Local police said at least one of the robbers was apparently armed with a gun, and they were searching for the suspects as of Friday.
Also on Monday, at least 18 people broke into a Nordstrom department store in Los Angeles and stole thousands of dollars in merchandise. And Wednesday evening, at least five people attacked another open Nordstrom store in Los Angeles downtown, then ran out with items that included about seven to eight expensive purses.
On Saturday, a mob of about 80 people stormed a Nordstrom department store with weapons in Walnut Creek, 35 km east of San Francisco. Three suspects have been arrested on Wednesday and charged with multiple felonies, including robbery, burglary, organized retail theft, conspiracy and receiving stolen property.
These incidents, dubbed "grab-and-go" or "smash-and-go" thefts, usually involve people taking expensive items and running off, rather than traditional shoplifters who snag items here and there while shopping around.
The kind of organized retail crime cost U.S. retail stores and companies as much as 30 billion U.S. dollars a year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In response to a recent increase in organized retail theft activities across the state, California Governor Gavin Newsom directed California Highway Patrol to increase their presence near major retail sites and announced a proposed increase in the 2022 to 2023 state budget to combat retail theft.
Cities where the high-end shopping malls concentrate also have to protect the Black Friday by themselves.
Beverly Hills hired two private security companies with 80 armed guards to bolster patrols this week after Local police have been working 12 hours shifts and are hoping to utilize over 2,000 security cameras watching over the city.
"Our city is taking it seriously, we're putting the money into it," Todd Johnson, president and CEO of Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, told local KCAL 9 news channel Friday.
Late Saturday night, a group of robbers attempted to break into luxury stores off Rodeo Drive, a famous shopping street in the Beverly Hills, by smashing the windows with sledgehammers but failed to get into the stores because of the thick protective glass.
At Westfield Century City, an outdoor shopping mall in the Century City commercial district in Los Angeles, uniform officers were seen on foot patrol on Friday, while expandable barriers were ready to be installed.
"We are monitoring the situation with smash-and-grab robberies around the county very closely," said Louis Schillace, a senior general manager at Westfield Century City.
However, the measures did not stop the robberies.
Friday night, a large group of robbers rushed into a luxury store in Beverly Grove, a bustling shopping and dining district in Beverly Hills, and stole several items. This incident prompted Los Angeles police late Friday to issue a citywide tactical alert.
Police said those thieves stormed into the store Friday night and fled with sledgehammers and bolt cutters, which could be used for more "smash-and-grab" robberies.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service