More than a dozen Los Angeles gangs are targeting some of the city’s wealthiest residents in a new and aggressive manner, sending out crews in multiple cars to find, follow and rob people driving high-end vehicles or wearing expensive jewelry, according to police.
In many cases, they’re making off with designer handbags, diamond-studded watches and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars — if not more — and then peddling them to black-market buyers who are willing to turn a blind eye to the underlying violence, police said.
In some cases, suspects have been arrested but then released from custody, according to police, only to commit additional robberies.
Those are among the conclusions of a Los Angeles Police Department task force convened at the end of last year to identify the cause of a sudden surge in “follow-home,” or “follow-off,” robberies, so called because victims are robbed soon after leaving luxury boutiques and hotels, ritzy restaurants, trendy nightclubs and other locations where the gangs are scouting for targets.
According to Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who spearheads the task force, police have identified at least 17 gangs, most based out of South L.A. and operating independently, that are involved. There were 165 such robberies in 2021 and 56 so far this year, he said, including several over the weekend.
The area with the most robberies during that time was the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, with 50, followed by 46 in the Wilshire Division and 40 in the Central Division, which includes downtown. The Pacific Division had 17, West L.A. 15, North Hollywood 14 and Topanga 11.
Tippet did not say how many robberies police attributed to which gangs, but said individuals allegedly affiliated with both the Bloods and Crips have been identified among the culprits. Suspects whom police have identified have pleaded not guilty, and their cases are pending. The task force is still working to build cases against other suspects.
Through surveillance video and other evidence, police have identified crews rolling three to five cars deep in some of the attacks, Tippet said, with gang members jumping out and blindsiding victims.
“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 said. “Pistol whipping them as well.”