Thieves rushed into a Southern California Nordstrom store the night before Thanksgiving and ran off with pricey goods in the latest of a string of organized retail thefts. Five people, one wearing an orange wig, entered the open store shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Westfield Topanga Mall in the Canoga Park area of Los Angeles, took seven or eight expensive purses and fled in a grey Ford Mustang, police said.
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A security guard was sprayed with Bear Spray by the thieves and was treated at the scene before being taken to the hospital, police said.
The Los Angeles Police Department recently started a special task force made up of veteran robbery homicide detectives due to an increase in brazen thefts in recent days, CBS Los Angeles reports. The police said they had extra patrols at the mall but the suspects chose a time where there were no cops around.
Multiple police cruisers as well as fire trucks and ambulances were seen parked outside the Nordstrom store at the popular shopping complex in Canoga Park. At least a dozen shoppers appeared to be standing outside.
There were no immediate arrests in the incident.
"It's unfortunate because these people that are here are just trying to shop for the holidays [and] for their families," said LAPD Deputy Chief Alen Hamilton, according to CBS Los Angeles. "We've deployed extra officers here. It just so happened that this was one part of the mall where they were able to get in and get out, even with our officers being deployed here."
In recent weeks, gangs of crooks, some armed with hammers and crowbars, have smashed their way into closed high-end stores and made off with tens of thousands of dollars in goods, authorities said. Police have responded by stepping up patrols and stores have been increasing security.
On Monday night, about 20 people struck a Nordstrom store at The Grove retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles and fled with about $5,000 worth of merchandise, police said. Meanwhile, authorities were investigating the smashing of storefront windows at Louis Vuitton and Saks Fifth Avenue stores Sunday on Beverly Hills' famous Rodeo Drive. Nothing was taken from either store, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Such thefts also have targeted the San Francisco Bay Area. In Santa Rosa, four young men ran into an Apple Store Wednesday morning and fled with $20,000 in goods, police said.
Police in Palo Alto announced Wednesday that two women had been arrested in connection with a Sunday night attempt to steal items from the RealReal clothing boutique downtown. Police said 30 to 40 people arrived in some 20 cars and tried to break down the glass front door but it held. A security guard reported the effort and the crowd fled as police arrived. The women were stopped in a car where police said they found at least $15,000 in clothes from a second RealReal location that was burglarized in Larkspur earlier that night.
Meanwhile, five people pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges involving thefts in San Francisco. Nine people have been charged in connection with Friday night attacks on stores including Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale's in the downtown area and in Union Square, a posh shopping district popular with tourists that was teeming with holiday shoppers.
California Governor Gavin Newsom recently addressed the string of thefts, CBS Los Angeles reports.
"I have no sympathy or empathy for people smashing and grabbing, stealing people's items, creating havoc and terror in our streets. None," Newsom said.