A group of thieves hit a Nordstrom store in the Los Angeles area on Wednesday evening, stealing at least eight luxury handbags and assaulting a guard before making a clean getaway.
Five people, one wearing an orange wig, entered the store in Canoga Park just before 7 p.m. and sprayed a security guard with “”some kind of chemical” as terrified shoppers fled, according to the Daily Mail.
“The thieves sped off and managed to escape with thousands of dollars worth of handbags despite multiple police cruisers, as well as fire trucks and ambulances, responding to the raid,” said the Mail.
A rash of flash thefts have occurred across California in San Jose, Santana Row, Hayward, and Walnut Creek. In each, waves of thieves — in one instance more than 100 — stormed into stores and stole as much as they could carry. Thieves have stolen tens of thousands of dollars worth of luxury goods, but often face little consequence amid soft misdemeanor theft laws passed in 2014 by voters in the Democrat-run state.
But the robbers aren’t acting alone. “Law enforcement say that mercenary thieves are being recruited for up to $1,000 to steal the expensive goods which are then shipped across state lines and sold on the internet. The sophisticated method makes it harder for cops to track the criminals,” said the Mail.
Meanwhile, a debate has broken out about what to call the thefts.
Police and law enforcement “experts” in California are saying that the recent surge of smash-and-grab thefts in California shouldn’t be called “looting” because that term carries racial connotations.
That has prompted a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department to call the thefts “organized robbery,” according to a new report.
The large-scale thefts aren’t considered looting under the California Penal Code, according to a report Tuesday by ABC affiliate KGO. “The penal code defines looting as ‘theft or burglary … during a ‘state of emergency,’ ‘local emergency,’ or ‘evacuation order’ resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot or other natural or manmade disaster,’” the report said.
“As the Bay Area grapples with a wave of seemingly organized smash and grab robberies this weekend, policing and journalism analysts are cautioning against the use of the term looting,” Race and Social Justice Reporter Julian Glover said.
But some cops are still using the term. “The Louis Vuitton store was burglarized and looted. The Burberry in Westfield Mall was burglarized and looted,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott in a press conference to reporters Saturday.
San Jose police spokesman Sgt. Christian Camarillo has taken umbrage with the term. “We are talking about two incidents, we’re not going to call this looting,” he said of the thefts. “This is organized robbery. That’s what it is.”
Calling the thefts “looting” carries a racist connotation, according to Lorenzo Boyd, a professor of criminal justice and community policing at the University of New Haven and a former police officer.
“Looting is a term that we typically use when people of color or urban dwellers are doing something,” he said, according to the ABC report. “We tend not to use that term for other people when they do the exact same thing.”
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