Smash-and-Grab Robberies: What Are They and Tips on Staying Safe

Smash-and-Grab Robberies
September 13, 2023


Smash-and-grab robberies are increasing in large cities throughout the country, to include incidents within the past several weeks, such as a reported robbery at Javier the Jeweler in Philadelphia, an attack at the Los Angeles Nordstrom which was robbed of $100,000 worth of luxury merchandise, and a robbery at the Americana at Brand’s Yves Saint Laurent store of $400,000 worth of goods. 

  • The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department defines smash-and-grab robberies, also known as flash mob robberies, as an organized crime “in which a large group of participants enter a retail shop or convenience store, en masse, and steal goods and other items. Typically, store workers and security guards quickly become overwhelmed by the large number of participants.”
  • Although exact statistics are difficult to gather because most incidents go unreported and data collection is uneven, many cities are responding by creating task forces to combat the issue. 

The chart above represents the amount of lost retail sales revenue due to theft.

According to Concentric’s Security Operations Program Manager Pat Knight, “While smash-and-grab thefts have occurred for years, the post-COVID-19 socio-political climate makes them easier to execute.” In the past, walking into a store with a mask was suspicious. However, it is now a very regular occurrence since people are more conscious about the spread of disease. Additionally, law enforcement and security personnel are hesitant to engage with perpetrators and risk legal actions, making it more difficult to capture and prosecute those involved. 

  • Mr. Knight also notes while these crimes are easy to execute, offenders are implementing savvy techniques such as surveying the locations, store layout, and schedules in advance and staging the crimes with multiple vehicles and people.

How can you stay safe if you witness this type of crime? 

In the event you are caught in the midst of a smash-and-grab robbery, Mr. Knight offers the following tips:

  • For store employees and shoppers:
    • Be aware of your surroundings. Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
    • Don’t make yourself a target. Keep your bags and valuables hidden and travel with someone when possible
    • Safety first. If you see something happening, seek safety and then call for help. In our age of technology and social media, people immediately start recording unusual events but this can put you in harm’s way. 
    • Stay informed. When shopping with others, particularly children or the elderly, brief them on best practices and safety procedures.
  • For EP agents:
    • Protect your client. An EP agent’s job is to protect the client and their primary focus must always be to get the client out of harm’s way and to a safe location. 
    • Trust yourself. If you feel something is amiss, get your client out of the area as soon as possible.
    • Ensure you maintain your training. In addition to general EP training, Mr. Knight recommends EP agents have instructions in additional training such as hand-to-hand combat, firearms training, and self-defense techniques.

Author: Sara Soomro, Intelligence Associate, Global Intelligence

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
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The Wall Street Journal
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