An audacious flash mob of eight women stormed a Sunglass Hut in Santa Clarita, California and ran off with over $20,000 worth of sunglasses. Blocking store employees from being able to see anything, the group shoved dozens of high end sunglasses into their bags and then escaped to an SUV waiting outside.
Though the sheriff’s department has numerous leads, no arrests have been made. Authorities are now working in conjunction with detectives from the Camarillo Police Department, who have a similar case, which could be connected. The Camarillo flash mob burglary happened April 9–almost two weeks after the robbery in Santa Clarita–and has led to six arrests.
“Our investigation here in Santa Clarita is still ongoing,” said the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Joshua Dublin. “We are working to figure out if there is a correlation.”
Though the culprits were only in the Camarillo store for about half a minute, it was enough time for a store clerk to recognize one of the suspects from a different burglary that had happened recently. An employee witnessed the gold minivan that the suspects piled into, while security camera footage also allowed police to supply surrounding agencies with descriptions of both the suspects and the vehicle.
The police conducted a high risk traffic stop, which allowed them to detain six suspects the same day. Ranging in ages from 39 to 21, police arrested the women for possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, conspiracy, and, of course, burglary. Each had a bail set at $20,000, said police.
“With the consolidation of the industry into very few giant producers and distributors, the prices of sunglasses have gone up several hundred percent in the last decade, making most of those quality fashion brands too expensive for the average person,” explains Craig Anderson, CEO of The Sunglass Fix. “With them being such a valuable commodity, and basically no way of tracking them in the second-tier stolen market, the resale value is high, especially when they’re in new condition.”
Believe it or not, this wasn’t the first kind of flash mob robbery. These kinds of crimes are colloquially known as either “flash robs” or “mob robs.” Flash rob statistics are difficult to come by, because they’re often unreported and because authorities often won’t prosecute, since the suspects tend to be under age. Some believe, though, that these crimes are on the rise.
Criminals use social media, like Twitter, to organize flash mobs the same way pranksters use the technology to organize flash mobs. According to police, a time and place are chosen over social networks, and the suspects then enter the store in large droves, taking whatever they want and leaving as fast as they entered. Some flash robbers are audacious enough to burglarize in the middle of the day on a busy street, despite all of the security cameras and employees.
According to Scott Decker, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University, “Young people are risk takers; they do things in groups far more than adults do. A medium like Twitter plays into the characteristics of young person’s behavior.”
Commenting on a criminal flash mob that happened in Upper Darby, which is outside Philadelphia, police chief Michael Chitwood said, “If they’re out doing flash mob thefts when they’re 12, what the hell are they going to be doing when they’re 16?”