Metro Riders Cite Rise in Crime

As ridership rebounds, reports of violence, including five killings, are up even from pre-pandemic levels.

As she waited for a Metro train in Hollywood, Maritza Mancilla shielded herself behind the escalator bringing passengers down into the fluorescent-lighted underground.

She wanted to see the newcomers before they could see her.

The 55-year-old, who relies on public transportation to get to her job as a housecleaner, has seen fights break out on the train. She’s seen a man attempt to open the car doors while they were in motion. At the Hollywood/Western Metro station earlier this year, a man exposed himself to her.

“If I could work from home, I would,” she said.

With the pandemic easing and lockdowns lifted, a return to normality has come with benefits: increased economic activity, more people going back to work and school, plus holiday gatherings and social interactions.

But on the Los Angeles public transit system — where ridership has rebounded to about 843,000 weekday daily riders from a pandemic low of about 363,800— normal has also brought with it a rise in crime.

In 2021, through September, reports of violent crimes were up 25% from the same time last year and 9% from 2019, according to L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority data.

Some crimes, such as aggravated assaults, are exceeding pre-pandemic levels even though bus and rail ridership hasn’t fully recovered.

Although still rare, homicides jumped from one in 2019 to three in 2020, the first full year of the pandemic. So far in 2021, five people have been killed in stations or on public transport, including a 28-year-old womanfatally shot on the train while on her way to work.

While most people ride public transit without incident, the issue of crime recently sparked a clash between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Metro board members over the future of law enforcement on the system. At a news conference to argue for the extension of his department’s contract with Metro, the sheriff rattled off a list of eight violent crimes, dating back to 2019, including shootings, stabbings and sexual assaults. He referred to the incidents as “the level of carnage” happening on trains.

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, who sits on the Metro board of directors, said he saw Villanueva’s compilation of violent crimes “as a public acknowledgment that he failed to prevent these crimes.”

Black Friday ‘Flash Mob’ Robberies Put LAPD on Tactical Alert

Los Angeles police late Friday were on citywide tactical alert after a wave of smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at high-end stores.

And in Lakewood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives were investigating a possible smash-and-grab robbery at a Home Depot after people stormed into the store Friday night and fled with sledgehammers and bolt cutters, according to authorities and a store employee.

The Los Angeles Police Department declared the alert around 8:30 p.m. Friday and lifted it at 2 a.m. Saturday. The alert followed a string of robberies in the area early in the evening, including an incident at 5:30 p.m. in which at least 10 men robbed a store at 130 S. La Brea Ave., pushed employees onto the ground and fled, said LAPD Officer Mike Lopez.

Lopez said that another attempted robbery on La Brea Avenue around 5:30 p.m. ended with an employee being sprayed with some kind of chemical agent, and another robbery was carried out at gunpoint in the 7800 block of Melrose Avenue.

Los Angeles police also took three people into custody Friday afternoon in the area of Melrose Avenue and Gardner Street after pulling over a vehicle for a traffic violation and spotting clothing with security tags “in plain sight,” connected to another theft, Lopez said.

Friday’s tactical alert follows a series of robberies in which groups have swooped in on stores across Los Angeles — including a Nordstrom at the Grove shopping center and several stores at the Beverly Center in the Beverly Grove neighborhood — and fled with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the incident at Nordstrom on Tuesday, where as many as 20 people stole $5,000 worth of merchandise after smashing a display window, police said.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga Mall Hit In Latest Rash of Flash Mob Robberies

A Canoga Park mall was the scene of a flash mob-style robbery Wednesday night, similar to one pulled off at the Grove earlier this week.

Around 7 p.m., three to five suspects entered a Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga mall and stole nearly $25,000 worth of designer bags, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspects entered the store, which was open at the time, and sprayed a security guard with a chemical substance before fleeing the scene in a green Ford mustang.

The security guard was treated and released at the scene by the Los Angeles Fire Department, Deputy Police Chief Alan Hamilton said in an interview with RMG News.

It was unclear at the time if the suspects were armed with more than the chemical spray, Hamilton said.

Click here to read that the rest of the article at the Los Angeles Daily News

‘It’s Extremely Alarming’: Sacramento-Area Police Prepare Against Theft as Black Friday Nears

A string of recent smash-and-grab thefts at luxury stores in the Bay Area and Southern California has Sacramento-area law enforcement preparing for Black Friday and forming strategies to thwart similar brazen crimes on one of the busiest weekends of the holiday shopping season.

Officers, some of them undercover, will flood retail areas like the Roseville Galleria from Friday through the year’s end amid the recent trend of organized retail crime. The Roseville Police Department and other agencies in the capital region are well aware of the brazen thefts that have played out over the past week.

“It’s extremely alarming,” said Roseville police spokesman Rob Baquera. “The frequency of these crimes shows an alarming trend.”

From Thanksgiving night through New Year’s Day, Roseville police will increase patrols and special operations to protect shoppers and businesses; not only at the mall but also locally-owned retail businesses throughout the city, Baquera said.

Shoppers should expect to see more marked patrol vehicles as well as officers walking through parking lots looking for thieves trying to break into vehicles. They also will be maintaining a highly visible presence around stores, like the Galleria, looking for anyone trying to launch a smash-and-grab attack.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

George Gascón’s Policies Endanger Public Safety

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has enthusiastically embraced radical, pro-criminal, anti-law enforcement policies to fulfill his misguided and dangerous ideology. His policies have ratcheted down punishment to its bare minimum and significantly reduced the prosecution of crime. Murders, gang shootings, organized theft and crime rates have skyrocketed.

Gascón’s destructive policies are not only unnecessarily costing innocent human lives, but they have resulted in increased economic devastation for families and businesses, ranging from mom-and-pop shops to large retailers. Gascón’s devotion to his ill-informed criminal justice agenda has created a public safety crisis, as well as an economic sinkhole. People have been impacted and traumatized by violent crime, and some businesses have been forced to close stores altogether due to organized shoplifting.

The claim there is no link between the recent crime wave and the enactment of the most radical and far-reaching criminal justice “reform” measures ever implemented is shameless gaslighting, or at best, extreme ignorance. Gascón’s policies increase the recidivism rate, and his adoption of a no cash bail system — which has failed miserably in other states — is causing additional harm to needless victims.

Gascón’s blanket policies in the courtroom abandon victims by prohibiting any sentence enhancements or special allegations. At one point, he attempted to eliminate the charging of enhancements for hate crimes. This “one size fits all” approach eliminates the opportunity for judges to impose appropriate and lawful sentences. Gascón’s orders to his deputies not to seek appropriate bail, when the public has voted overwhelmingly to retain a bail system, is another example of a policy that endangers public safety.

Gascón has also abandoned victims’ next of kin at parole hearings. Imagine the trauma of the mother whose son was brutally beaten, stabbed, shot, stripped naked and left in the middle of the street, being forced to have to confront her son’s killer. Under Gascón’s twisted agenda, the mother is left to present the crime scene photos at a parole hearing all by herself. She must go alone against her son’s murderer and his attorney paid for by tax dollars. This is a real case. This is unacceptable.

The California Constitution mandates prosecutors to attend such hearings. The mother of the murdered victim, as well as the people of Los Angeles, have been abandoned by Gascón. Retired and former deputy district attorneys now assist victims in asserting and protecting their rights because Gascón’s policies are inherently averse to victims’ rights and concerns.

The justice system has plenty of advocates for criminals, including the public defender, the alternate public defender, the ACLU, the Innocence Project, Youth Offender Parole Clinic, Habeas Corpus Resource Center and various political front groups established by special-interest donors seeking to spread this same dangerous version of criminal justice. While always protecting defendants’ rights and upholding the Constitution, the elected district attorney should be an advocate for the people and committed to public safety. Gascón is neither.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Armed Suspects Rob Diners in Seasons 52 Restaurant Patio at South Coast Plaza

Costa Mesa police are searching for robbers – at least one with a handgun – who ran onto the patio of the Seasons 52 restaurant at South Coast Plaza at dinnertime, ordered everyone to get down, and then stole a purse before fleeing Monday night, Nov. 22, authorities and witnesses said.

Police received calls about an armed robbery at the mall, in the 3300 block of Bristol Street, just before 7:15 p.m., spokeswoman Roxi Fyad said.

Witnesses told police three to five people wearing masks and dressed in black clothes entered the patio and told everyone to get on the floor, Fyad said.

A couple of diners dove into a nearby rose bush. Others dropped to the ground and some had scrapes and bruises to show for it, a man later tweeted. The diner, who did not want to be named in a news story, said one victim lost a family heirloom.

The patio was more than half full at the time, a diner who was there said in an interview.

The diner, who also did not want to be named, saying he fears for his safety, said he and three friends were enjoying dinner at the restaurant after playing in a charity golf tournament when one of the friends saw two people who looked suspicious.

They were wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks and entered the restaurant patio through a side gate. One of them had a handgun, he said, and he heard, “Get down.” As the suspects continued forward, he and a friend jumped over a wall and into a rose bush.

The person with the gun pointed it at another table, the diner said. He was not sure if the second suspect also had a gun.

“It was really quick, I would say three minutes and then we heard tires screeching (from the lower parking lot),” he said. “Luckily they didn’t fire the gun.”

After stealing the purse, the robbers fled in a white four-door Buick and headed south on Bristol Street, Fyad said.

Police and security arrived shortly thereafter, the diner said.

“It was awful we had to be there for it, but I’m thankful no one was hurt,” he said. “It’s still very traumatizing, a lot of staff there were very emotional.”

A spokeswoman for Seasons 52 said the restaurant was working with police, but declined to comment further.

No arrests have been made.

The incident follows similar high-profile armed robberies in Beverly Hills and on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles earlier this year, where suspects approached outdoor dining areas and robbed customers at gunpoint.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

‘Flash Mob’ Loots California Nordstrom, At Least Two people Arrested

At least two people were arrested at gunpoint after a flash mob of shoplifters robbed a California department store late Saturday night, a report said.

The incident happened at the Walnut Creek Nordstrom store, according to NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez.

Some two dozen cars blocked the street as throngs of robbers rushed the store, made off with merchandise and sped away, the reporter tweeted.

Cops with guns drawn arrested two suspects, she said.

Click here to read the full article at NY Post

We Obtained Never-Before-Seen Data on How Chesa Boudin is Prosecuting Cases. Here’s What It Shows

When Chesa Boudin ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 2019, he promised to approach crime differently than his predecessors, in part by no longer prosecuting lower-level offenses like recreational drug use. He also pledged to take more rape cases to trial, even if that meant he would lose those cases more frequently.

Less than two years after taking office, Boudin faces a likely recall election after critics of his administration garnered more than 83,000 signatures from residents who believe he has made the city less safe. To explore that claim, the Chronicle conducted a comprehensive review of how often his office decides to prosecute arrested individuals and how often it secures convictions in selected types of crime.

Boudin’s overall charging rate is 48%, slightly lower than predecessor George Gascón’s 54% in his last two years and on par with Gascón’s charging rates in 2016 and 2017. But overall charging rates can be misleading because the types of cases the D.A. receives from police can change significantly from year to year, especially during abnormal periods such as the current global pandemic.

A review of charging rates for specific crime types, which allows a more accurate assessment of what Boudin’s administration has done differently, shows that charging rates have increased for rape and drug cases under his watch, while they have decreased for theft and other lower-level offenses.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Did Beverly Hills Police Target Black Shoppers on Rodeo Drive? What Records and Emails Show

Last month, two attorneys summoned reporters to the steps of Beverly Hills City Hall to make a disturbing accusation. Police had deliberately targeted Black shoppers along the city’s famous Rodeo Drive.

The proof, they said, was in the numbers: A special team of officers assigned last fall to patrol the opulent shopping corridor arrested dozens of people for minor infractions such as jaywalking or riding scooters on a sidewalk and all but one of them were Black, they alleged. They labeled it brazen, illegal racial profiling.

A closer examination of the Beverly Hills Police Department’s Rodeo Drive Team offers a more complicated picture of the operation, shedding light on how it started and raising new questions about why the overwhelming majority of the people arrested were Black.

Click to read the full story at Los Angeles Times

California bill would seal 8 million criminal convictions


Police carA Northern California lawmaker and district attorney announced Thursday a proposed law that would automatically clear some 8 million criminal convictions eligible for sealing but that remain public records.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and state Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco said the bill if passed would help millions of offenders take advantage of an often overlooked law allowing convicted drunken drivers, burglars and other low-level offenders to seal their records.

Gascon at a press conference in San Francisco with Ting said fewer than 20 percent of eligible cases are cleared and that most eligible offenders are unaware they can seal their criminal records and are “living in a paper prison.”

Sex offenders and any offender who served time in prison are ineligible. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press