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Video shows brazen 'smash-and-grab' jewelry store robbery

July 28, 2011 |  9:54 am

Los Angeles police are investigating a brazen downtown robbery, in which three men wearing hooded sweatshirts rushed into a jewelry store, pepper sprayed the owner and smashed the display cases, taking more than $7,000 in costume jewelry.

Police suspect it is latest in a series of robberies tied to South L.A. gangs targeting jewelery stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“We’ve been seeing these smash-and-grabs occurring for several weeks,” said Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The robbery occurred Friday afternoon at the 21st Century Jewelry store on Broadway.

Investigators said they saw a similar pattern of robberies last summer, and the rising price of gold may be a prime motivator for the crimes.

The three fled in a white, four-door Toyota Camry with paper plates.

Vernon said detectives are already investigating seven similar robberies along Broadway since late June.

The suspects are typically members of South Los Angeles gangs, although no single gang is directing or leading the spree, he said.

“We think that the word has gotten around that this is somehow easy money, but I’m here to tell everyone, we’ve put 13 people in jail over the last couple weeks, and we’ll keep doing that until they realize the pickings aren’t so easy,” he said.

Police departments across the region have seen a spike in similar robberies.

“We’ve have spoken to other agencies from Tustin to Corona to Inglewood,” Vernon said.

Detectives have trained officers and business owners to be aware of signs of impending robbery, including the number of people in a car; people looking around a store then leaving; how the suspects are dressed; and whether suspects' car license plates are obscured and they have tools, such as hammers.

Vernon said detectives arrested one crew of four men two weeks ago before they could commit the robbery. They were booked on conspiracy charges.


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-- Richard Winton