By STEFANIE DAZIO and CHRISTOPHER WEBER
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police are warning people that wearing expensive jewelry in public could make them a target for thieves — a note of caution as thefts are on the rise across the city.
The police department’s suggestion came on Tuesday as thieves smashed the window of a Beverly Hills jewelry store in broad daylight and made off with millions of dollars worth of merchandise.
Bystanders recorded video of Tuesday’s robbery, the latest in a long string of brazen robberies and robberies of people wearing expensive watches or jewelry in the Los Angeles area.
In the city of LA, robberies are up 18% year-to-date compared to 2021. Robberies with a firearm are up 44% over the same period across the city.
“Over the past year, there has been a marked increase in armed robberies involving victims wearing expensive jewelry in public. If visible, he may be a target,” an LAPD statement said. .
Wes Bunker, 30, of Dallas, waited for friends Wednesday in Hollywood’s Melrose shopping district, amid vintage shops and stores. He had been in town for two days but had not heard of the LAPD warning.
“It seems safe here so far,” he told The Associated Press, wearing a gold chain around his neck.
Bunker said that being from a big city, he wouldn’t take any extra precautions while walking around Los Angeles during the day. But he said he might think twice at night.
“Like at the club, you have to keep your eyes open,” he said.
In November, detectives from the police department’s elite Robbery and Homicide Division formed a Home Tracking Task Force to investigate crimes where people are targeted by criminals and pursued in their homes or an isolated area. People were often followed in neighborhoods such as Melrose Avenue and the city’s jewelry district, as well as high-end restaurants and nightclubs in Hollywood and Wilshire.
“Victims were targeted based on the high-end jewelry they wore or the high-end car they drove,” police said in a November statement announcing the task force’s creation.
Brenda Nolan, 70, has lived her entire life in Los Angeles. In the Melrose area on Wednesday – wearing a gold ring, silver earrings and several necklaces – she said she had seen the Beverly Hills smash-and-grab video on TV but that she didn’t feel the need to remove or hide her jewelry in public.
“I can hold my own, even today at my age,” she said, noting that she has done karate and has good instincts for city life and remains aware of her surroundings. .
In Culver City, police last week announced arrests linked to separate robberies — including one where the victims were targeted and followed to their homes — earlier this month.
In one case, armed robbers allegedly stole more than $3,600 worth of jewelry from a man in a mall parking lot. In the other incident, one victim was whipped and the other had his Rolex and phone stolen at gunpoint during a home robbery.
On Tuesday, masked thieves used sledgehammers to smash the window of Luxury Jewels of Beverly Hills, taking between $3 million and $5 million in merchandise before making their escape.
Owner Peter Sedghi said he was in his office when he heard what sounded like gunshots.
“I yelled at my staff, ‘Everyone get on the floor, get on the floor,'” he told AP.
Sedghi said he triggered the panic alarm, grabbed his gun and ran to the front of the store, but the thieves were already running away. The thieves arrived in a stolen car and abandoned it, driving off in another vehicle, police said.
“We are in the heart of Beverly Hills. Who thought this would happen in broad daylight? he said Wednesday as his staff continued to inventory what had been stolen.
Following high-profile thefts in the area – where people have been targeted for pieces such as Rolex watches and gold chains – Sedghi said some of his customers are afraid to wear their jewelery in public and won’t wear it. wore only for events such as weddings and galas.
“Beverly Hills is supposed to be a safe area, you should be able to walk around with whatever jewelry you want,” he said.
A Beverly Hills police statement said additional security patrols and other measures were immediately taken. Residents were asked to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.
“The choice to wear expensive jewelry is ultimately theirs,” Lt. Giovanni Trejo said in an email.
Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed.