Organized Retail Theft Task Force to Tackle Smash-and-Grabs

New task force has made 89 arrests, recovered $370k in stolen merchandise 

Supervisor Hahn and Sheriff Robert Luna

Commerce, CA (October 19, 2023)— On Thursday afternoon, Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, and Commerce Mayor Hugo Argumedo held a press conference at the Citadel Outlets in the City of Commerce to provide an update on the efforts of the Organized Retail Theft Task Force including arrests made and merchandise recovered.

“The goal of this task force is to urgently respond to the smash-and-grab robberies that we had seen at malls and stores across the county.  These were not petty thefts – these were organized violent operations that cannot and will not be allowed to continue,” said Supervisor Hahn. “Today, just five weeks after the Organized Retail Theft Task Force was created and thanks to the hard work of Sheriff Luna and his deputies, we already have progress to share including arrests and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen merchandise recovered.

The Organized Retail Theft Task Force created by Sheriff Luna is in response to the recent rise in smash-and-grabs and is focused on targeting criminal crews and reducing brazen thefts in the business communities. This update comes three weeks after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Hahn and co-authored by Solis to secure a $15.6 million grant to fund the Task Force.

“Our Retail Theft Task Force is aggressively targeting and dismantling retail theft crews that are preying on our business communities and threatening their financial means and safety,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna. “Not only are we investigating those that commit these brazen thefts, but we are also focusing on every level of the criminal chain—from individuals selling the stolen merchandise to the getaway drivers. It’s not acceptable for community members to feel intimidated to shop in their neighborhoods and businesses shouldn’t be afraid to open their doors to customers.”

In the first five weeks of operation, LASD Organized Retail Theft Task Force teams made 89 arrests for retail-related thefts, recovered 6 firearms, served 52 warrants, and recovered over $370,000 worth of stolen merchandise.

“With the support of Governor Newsom’s $15.6 million dollar grant, the LA Sheriff’s Department will have even more resources to combat the rampant organized retail crime occurring across the County,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis.  “The harm these ‘smash and grabs’ and other large thefts are causing not just impact small and large businesses, but also the employees and customers.  Shopkeepers like the elderly shopkeeper in Chinatown who was brutally beaten and retail workers like the 34-year-old clerk who was shot and killed at a liquor store in West Covina put their lives at risk every day at work.  Customers also feel unsafe with their day-to-day shopping.  I wholeheartedly support the Sheriff and the collective efforts to stop organized retail crime in LA County.”

Sheriff Robert Luna

The Organized Retail Theft Task Force consists of 32 members of the Sheriff’s Department who operate in 3 teams across the county.  The teams are partnering with other law enforcement agencies including the LAPD and CHP to join resources, conduct joint operations, and share information.  The aim of the task force is to bring to justice individuals at every stage of these crimes, including those who perpetrate the smash and grabs, those who organize on the back end, getaway drivers, and the sellers of stolen goods.

The task force sets out to work closely with business owners, establishing direct lines of contact between business owners and the task force.  The task force will also begin public education to provide information to consumers so they can recognize merchandise that is likely stolen and shop more responsibly online.