More than a dozen individuals were arrested in connection with the “smash-and-grab” or “flash mob” style robberies that have been plaguing the Los Angeles area in recent weeks… but none stayed in jail for long.
According to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, 11 of the mass robberies occurred within the space of less than two weeks in late November. In these incidents, groups of robbers ran into stores, overwhelmed security, and fled with large amounts of merchandise before police could arrive. All told, the robberies cost Los Angeles retailers several hundred thousand dollars in damage and lost property.
Fourteen arrests were made, but all of the suspects were quickly released. Although one was a juvenile, most of the others qualified for release without bail under California’s zero bail policy.
Orange County’s Sheriff Don Barnes has been vocal on his department’s dedication to keeping OC crime low. In a recent statement, Barnes said his deputies “will not hesitate” to make arrests.
This policy extends not just to misdemeanors but also certain types of felonies, including the actions of the robbers. It was initially implemented at the beginning of the pandemic in an attempt to reduce jail overcrowding. However, a decision by the California Supreme Court kept the policy in place long after the initial crisis had passed.
Law enforcement officials expressed frustration with the zero bail policy, with Chief Moore arguing that the robbers are “gaming the system” and “capitalizing on” its weaknesses.
The epidemic of flash mob robberies seems to be spreading beyond the Los Angeles area, with copycats building off of the early successes of others. On December 2, the very day of the arrests, another such incident took place in the Bay Area, with four hammer-wielding robbers attacking a jewelry store and fleeing with several valuable pieces of jewelry.