Retail thefts are getting so out of hand in Los Angeles, according to police, that in one case the suspects used bear spray on a mall security guard while pulling off a caper.
The bear spray incident was one of several flash-mob and smash-and-grab robberies that occurred in recent weeks across the city. It happened at a Nordstrom store inside the Topanga Mall in the San Fernando Valley.
Police on Tuesday released video of the incident, which shows the suspect unleashing a cloud of bear spray on a security guard, who falls to the ground. The suspect takes off running as the guard struggles to get to his feet. Police did not indicate if the suspect got away with anything.
Police are investigating at least 10 spree-related thefts which have resulted in about $30,000 in losses. At least 14 people have been arrested in connection with the thefts.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore criticized the state's "zero-bail" policy for an increase in crime rates.
"Historically, a short two years ago, a person arrested for one of these offenses would be in custody subject to an arraignment within 72 hours... and there would be an assessment by the judge with the defense attorney and prosecutor of whether or not the person would be remanded and remain in custody pending a preliminary hearing, which would be in a series of days," Moore said during questioning from the media. "Today, that process is with the zero-bail, that person is in and out back in the community and their next court appearance is an arraignment that is four or five months out. That individual is back in the street."
Moore added that not everyone arrested for a crime is guaranteed to reoffend, but his department is encountering an increasing number of reoffenders "because they're not seeing a consequence or a deterrent value of the threat of incarceration."
The LAPD said it will continue high-visibility patrols around popular shopping areas to prevent more smash-and-grab thefts.