Auto theft detectives are warning the public about an increase in vehicle break-ins occurring in shopping mall parking lots that may be attributed to suspects from the Bay Area.
Officers arrested two female suspects on July 7 who they believe were responsible for eight vehicle burglaries in June and early July. The suspects were identified as Javina Woodson, 26, of San Francisco, and Jamie Hatch, 36, of Antioch. Det. Sam Arnold, with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division, said the two suspects had been staying at different motels in Hollywood and were allegedly selling items stolen during the break-ins for cash to support themselves.
“We were able to I.D. them and connect them to a vehicle that was found in Hollywood,” Arnold said. “They were surviving off ill-gotten gains from stealing items and pawning them.”
Arnold said investigators saw a trend in similar auto burglaries prior to the pandemic, but the break-ins subsided during stay at home orders. As businesses have started reopening, the trend has reemerged, he said.
“We have seen with the COVID restrictions easing that these have been popping up again,” Arnold added. “It was a really big deal with gang members coming down from the Bay Area and San Francisco in 2019 and early 2020. Now, we have been seeing an uptick in the last two months.”
The detective said the suspects have targeted parking lots at The Grove, Beverly Center and Hollywood and Highland Center, as well as lots for other smaller shopping centers. They typically break into vehicles with packages or luggage visible inside. Police have found security camera footage that enabled them to determine what happened in some instances and identify suspects. In the burglaries allegedly involving Woodson and Hatch, police used security camera footage and an eyewitness who allegedly caught one of the suspects inside his vehicle to identify the perpetrators and a vehicle they were driving.
Arnold added that vehicle owners can take measures to prevent themselves from becoming victims, but there are no guarantees.
“They look for out-of-state plates, rental cars and vehicles with packages inside,” Arnold added. “First, they check door handles to see if they are open. If they see something good, they will use a window-smashing device to get inside. We tell people never to leave bags in cars. It’s particularly tough for tourists. We’ve had people who have flown out and had all their luggage stolen.”
He said thieves often break into vehicles if they see a bag, whether it contains valuables or not.
“Anything visible will lead them to break in,” he added.
Arnold surmised that suspects from the Bay Area are coming to Los Angeles to commit crimes because they are repeat offenders who are already known to police in that part of the state. He added that the two suspects arrested on July 7 have previous arrests for similar crimes.
“We want people to be aware and to take steps to prevent them from happening,” he said. “Malls are open for business again, but don’t forget, the suspects are also open for business.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact Wilshire Division auto burglary detectives at (213)922-8271.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.