The estimated 50-person mob that stormed a Topanga Mall Nordstrom on Friday, stealing roughly $100,000 in retail goods, was using a well-tested robbery strategy - the 'smash-and-grab.'
Flash mob robberies have been around for a long time, but the tactic has picked up steam over recent years, with the Topanga Mall incident being the latest of such hits.
Criminologist Scott Decker with the Center for Naval Analyses and Arizona State told Charles Feldman on L.A.'s Afternoon News, the term smash-and-grabs go back as far as the 1920s when it meant "smashing the glass on a case in a jewelry store and grabbing a few small items and running out the door."
So why are these high-profile, swarming robberies so popular with criminals today?
Decker said these crimes are relatively rare and, as a result, tend to get a lot of attention. However, "We don't have a category in the way we measure crime in this country that identifies smash-and-grab, so it's really hard to know how many of these events take place or whether there's a surge."
Some suggest the perceived surge is due to lax laws and revised bail protocol for particular crimes, and to that Decker said, "I'll take the academic approach first and say we don't have enough information to know if that's the case."
Regardless of how frequently these crimes occur or why, they are dangerous for those who shop at and work in retail stores.
Decker said, "No piece of jewelry or technology is worth someone's life or permanent injury," opting to offer mitigating techniques to prevent them from happening rather than intervening while they are in action.
- Visible cameras at entrances
- Small concrete pillars or concrete blocks in front of the store
- Double doors such that the second door can only be accessed by being buzzed in
Decker also suggests limiting the number of shoppers in a store at any given time but recognizes this may prevent the owners from efficiently doing what they intend to do - make money.