Authorities have identified at least 17 Los Angeles gangs who have been targeting some of the city’s wealthiest residents for violent attacks—robbing them of expensive jewelry, designer handbags, high-end vehicles and other fine goods, which the gangsters then peddle on the black market.
The latest findings come from a Los Angeles Police Department task force established late last year to identify the cause of an uptick in “follow-home” robberies in which victims are robbed shortly after leaving lavish restaurants, boutiques, nightclubs, or other locations where gangs are scouting for targets, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Most of the gangs are based out of South L.A. and have been operating independently, according to Capt. Jonathan Tippet who leads the task force. In 2021, there were 165 such robberies and there have been 56 so far this year, including several over the weekend, he told the Times.
LAPD’s Hollywood Division saw the most robberies during that time period with 50 such incidents, followed by 46 in the Wilshire Division, and 40 in the Central Division, which includes downtown. Other targeted areas included the Pacific Division with 17, West L.A. with 15, North Hollywood with 14, and Topanga with 11.
Tippet did not indicate how many robberies authorities attributed to which gangs, but said individuals allegedly affiliated with both the Bloods and Crips have been identified. Some suspects who have been identified have pleaded not guilty and their cases are pending. Tippet’s team is working to build cases against other suspects, he said.
During some of the robberies, police have identified gangs—via surveillance and other evidence—rolling three to five cars deep, then jumping out to catch their victims by surprise.
“There’s no chance or opportunity for these victims even to comply. They’re just running up to people and attacking them, whether that’s putting a gun in their face or punching them and beating on them,” Tippet told the Times. “Pistol whipping them as well.”
Tippet, who also leads the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said shots have been fired in 23 cases and two victims have been killed.
“In my 34 years on the job, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Tippet added that the task force’s work—particularly the arrests of some alleged gang members involved in such crimes—has helped drive down the number of robberies to just 10 in March. However, the trend remains a concern in part because those same suspects continue to be released from jail, which has allowed them to reoffend while awaiting trial.
“I am absolutely frustrated,” Tippet told the Times.
Tippet said he hopes that the task force’s work will encourage the criminals to stop committing these crimes—and that includes the ones who are buying the stolen goods.
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