Law enforcement has warned Los Angeles restaurants to be aware of a burglary ring that has targeted locations in Santa Monica and other nearby cities. Burglaries have occurred at restaurants in Los Angeles, Gardena, Culver City, Redondo Beach, and Malibu, according to police.
The group includes four to five men wearing athletic clothing and hooded sweatshirts pulled over their faces. They target restaurants with glass front doors that lack bars or roll up gates. Recently, the group targeted three Santa Monica restaurants in one week; stealing a safe with $8,000 inside from Dagwoods Pizza on July 3, stealing $4,000 from Z Garden on July 1, and $500 from Viet Noodle Bar on June 27. Most recently, the group brook into Upper West at 3321 Pico Boulevard on July 23 and stole $800.
The burglars break into the restaurants with saws, crowbars and hammers. Once inside, they ransack cash drawers and look for safes. Police believe they spend only two to three minutes inside. They have been spotted driving up to the restaurants in a late model Nissan Maxima and, more recently, a newer model white Kia Optima. They only hit restaurants during the week.
Police provided a list of safety suggestions to the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, including installing bars or rollup gates to cover doors and installing audible alarms and exterior/interior carmera surveillance systems. Police also suggest not keeping cash or valuables in the building after business hours.
Commercial burglary is a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Prosecutors consider the circumstances of the burglary as well as an individual’s criminal record when deciding whether to file as a misdemanor or felony.
While law enforcement has members of the group on surveillance video commiting these crimes, the individuals cover their face with hooded sweatshirts, making them nearly impossible to identify. Police will continue to investigate and recommend local restaurants take adequate precautions in the meantime to avoid being targeted.