In a distressing display of organized crime, a mob consisting of 30 to 50 individuals targeted a Nordstrom department store at the Westfield Topanga Mall in Los Angeles on Saturday. Videos from various sources, including footage from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), depicted the chaotic scene. The culprits, hooded and masked to hide their identities, systematically took over the store, snatching luxury goods estimated to be worth more than $100,000.
While stealing bags and apparel primarily from the Italian fashion brand Bottega Veneta, these individuals took their audacity a step further by using bear spray as a weapon. Tragically, two security guards fell victim to the debilitating spray. With security personnel present, one might wonder how this mob managed such a heist.
The California state assembly may offer part of the explanation. In May, a law was passed that prevents store employees from confronting active threats such as shoplifters or even more serious assailants. In an environment where retail employees are legislatively handcuffed, criminals face a low risk of immediate resistance.
Because George Gascone decided nothing in LA is crime anymore https://t.co/wl4ho3PEkv
— Vera Eyzendooren (@AlwaysRightUSA) August 15, 2023
Eyewitness accounts detail the terror and confusion that patrons felt. One bystander recalled, “We were sitting having coffee, and all of a sudden, we saw so many people running out of the store.” Another remarked, “I really didn’t understand at first what was going on,” until the gravity of the situation became clear with security personnel rushing toward the unfolding chaos. The well-coordinated and swift assailants made their getaway in multiple vehicles, including brands like BMW, Lexus, and Honda.
The Nordstrom incident isn’t an isolated event in the Golden State. A month ago, thieves executed a major heist in La Verne, stealing roughly $300,000 worth of jewelry. Another “flash mob” theft occurred in Glendale just days after that robbery. Approximately 30 culprits seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of luxury items from a Yves Saint Laurent store.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (D) expressed her dismay in a post on the X platform, formerly Twitter: “What happened at the Nordstrom in the Topanga Mall this weekend is unacceptable. Those who committed these acts and acts like it in neighboring areas must be held accountable.”
However, for the residents and patrons of such establishments, statements might offer little solace. The LAPD encapsulated the sentiment best in their statement, “To those who live in the area and patronize the Topanga Mall, it is a loss of feeling safe.”
This string of high-profile thefts exposes a critical challenge for California’s law enforcement and governance. Will the state be proactive and amend laws or strategies to curb such bold crimes, or will luxury looting become an uncomfortable norm for retailers and shoppers? The hope is for swift justice and more robust preventative measures. But only time will tell if these incidents serve as a wake-up call or merely a footnote in a growing California trend.