Plague of Flash Robs
One of the world’s most fabled neighborhoods for the rich and famous is Beverly Hills, the home of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston, Adele, Jack Nicholson, and Eddy Murphy. And in Beverly Hills is one of the most luxurious and expensive shopping areas you have ever seen, Rodeo Drive.
But is the allure of Rodeo Drive about to end? The New York Post made a claim Tuesday September 5th. That “Beverly Hills is becoming a ghost town.” The reason? “High-end retail stores,” says the Post, are bailing out because of “a spate of high-end smash-and-grab gang robberies.”
The Post reports that “more than a dozen Beverly Hills retailers and restaurants completely shuttered…leaving their empty storefronts as shells.” Says the Post, businesses that have closed include Barneys, Escada, Chanel, Rite Aid, Barnes & Noble, Niketown, Chipotle and Starbucks. All were driven out of Beverly Hills, says the Post, by “smash and grab gang robberies.”
Robberies that have made shoppers feel unsafe and that have driven spenders away.
Is the Post right? Have these businesses closed because of smash-and-grab robberies?
You know what “high-end smash-and-grab gang robberies are.” You’ve seen them on TV ever since 2021. They’re also known as flash mob robberies or, in the words preferred by the police, flash robs.
And what are flash robs? They’re highly organized affairs with careful advance planning, up to a dozen getaway cars rented under false names and equipped with false license plates. Carefully scoped out getaway routes. Stealth recruitment on social media of ten to 80 gang members, high schoolers, and homeless people, who’ve been offered $100 apiece. And lots of TikTok videos after the fact.
Then there’s the dress code: black clothes, black hoodies, black masks and black gloves. With coordination so exquisite that the mob can hit a store and get out in two to four minutes.
One group even did a pre-flash rob at a Home Depot to steal hammers, wrenches, and crowbars for a bigger robbery to come.
The organizers sell the loot to fences who, in turn, sell the stolen goods on street stalls, pop up stores, and online. Some of the stolen items are high end goods like Louis Vuitton handbags. And some are surprisingly mundane: hard-to-trace and easy-to-sell goods like Tide, cosmetics, baby formula, and even painkillers and vitamins.
The flash rob business is bigger than you might suspect. The latest National Retail Security Survey says that organized retail crime generated losses of roughly $45 billion in 2021.
All of this takes organization. Who are the organizers? No one in law enforcement seems to know.
But after a string of flash robs in August, LA mayor Karen Bass announced the creation of a multi-agency Organized Retail Crimes Task Force to stop the pillage. That task force made 15 arrests in its first ten days.
At least one California politician, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, claims that the string of robberies has been caused by liberal Democrats whose policies, he says, are “inept and lax.“ The LA Times disagrees. It says that “L.A.’s smash-and-grab robberies are terrible, but not spurred by criminal justice reform.”
Much, much farther on the political left, Christopher Olliney of Marketmadness.com claims that these robberies are manifestations of the class warfare that Karl Marx predicted would cause violent revolutions and would overthrow capitalism. Flash and grab gang robberies are caused, Olliney says, by growing inequality.
And there is no question that the robbers are far poorer than the shoppers who buy Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel. But is this the beginning of an armed insurrection of the poor against the rich? I seriously doubt it.
The bottom line is that humans are social. We work in groups. And when we are led by clever, determined, and persistent leaders who see an opportunity and pursue it, we can accomplish amazing things. Including criminal things.
Like the January 6th mob that smashed windows at the Capital under the leadership of former president Donald Trump, the most famous flash-stampede organizer of our time.
Now our job is to find the flash-rob leaders organizing attacks on retail stores. And to jail them.
Howard Bloom of the Howard Bloom Institute has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain's Channel 4 TV. One of his seven books--Global Brain---was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American. He does news commentary at 1:06 am Eastern Time every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM.
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