After organized retail thefts elsewhere, Long Beach police place cameras in business areas

Long Beach police say they’re taking extra precautions to deter organized theft rings after a string of high-profile crimes in other cities where groups swarmed into retail stores and took off in waiting cars with stolen merchandise.

“Today, we placed mobile cameras in business areas — to increase visibility and deter criminal activity in response to commercial robberies occurring in other cities,” police said in a tweet.

The heightened concern about mass retail thefts comes after several high-profile crimes in the Bay Area and other nearby cities like Los Angeles.

The latest was Wednesday night when thieves rushed into a Nordstrom store at the Westfield Topanga Mall in the Canoga Park area around 7 p.m.  Five people, one wearing an orange wig, entered the open store took seven or eight expensive purses and fled in a car, police said.

A security guard was sprayed with some kind of chemical by the thieves and was treated at the scene, police said. Police cars and ambulances converged on the mall but there were no immediate arrests.

There haven’t been any such crimes reported in Long Beach recently, and there are “no credible threats of violence” to the city at this time, police said, but “we are committed to safeguarding our community.”

In recent weeks, groups of crooks, some armed with hammers and crowbars, have smashed their way into closed high-end stores and made off with tens of thousands of dollars in goods across the state, authorities said.

Police across California have responded by stepping up patrols and stores have been increasing security.

On Monday night, about 20 people struck a Nordstrom store at The Grove retail and entertainment complex in Los Angeles and fled with about $5,000 worth of merchandise, police said.

Such thefts also have targeted the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Santa Rosa, four young men ran into an Apple Store Wednesday morning and fled with $20,000 in goods, police said.

Police in Palo Alto announced Wednesday that two women had been arrested in connection with a Sunday night attempt to steal items from the RealReal clothing boutique downtown.

Police said 30 to 40 people arrived in some 20 cars and tried to break down the glass front door but it held. A security guard reported the effort and the crowd fled as police arrived.

The women were stopped in a car where police said they found at least $15,000 in clothes from a second RealReal location that was burglarized in Larkspur earlier that night.

Meanwhile, five people pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges involving thefts in San Francisco. Nine people have been charged in connection with Friday night attacks on stores including Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s in the downtown area and in Union Square, a posh shopping district popular with tourists that was teeming with holiday shoppers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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