HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Police across Southern California are beefing up patrols following Wednesday night’s crime spree in Hollywood.
Approximately 40 people had gathered in the area near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue around 9 p.m., knocking people down and taking their cell phones. Merchandise and cash registers were stolen from local businesses and windows broken throughout the neighborhood.
LAPD Commander Dennis Kato described the showing of civil disorder as a “flashmob”.
He said juveniles, ages 14 to 17, and one 18-year-old, were arrested for looting, assault, robbery and other charges.
Police are now trying to figure out how to stay on top of the activity, which is sometimes called “wilding”.
It can spread like wildfire on social media, without catching the attention of authorities, who may not know what terms or phrases to search, so cops are getting caught off guard.
“How these kids come together and how they pick their targets – we’re learning that as we speak,” Kato told KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta.
Messages on Twitter indicate Beverly Hills is a potential target.
The BHPD said they were in full mobilization mode Wednesday night.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said they were expecting another hit.
A shoplifting flashmob recently hit downtown Long Beach and several arrests were made.
“While were able to get out in front of that one. We responded very quickly to it,” McDonnell said.
Police and public officials meanwhile stress that Hollywood remains a safe place to visit.
“In this year alone our crime is down 17 percent. In fact, the crimes last night, which is called robbery, is down actually 27 percent year to date,” Cmdr. Andy Smith said at a news conference Wednesday.
L.A. police chief Charlie Beck also said the kind of activity displayed in Hollywood will not be tolerated, and vowed to crack down on criminals participating.
“We made 12 arrests. We’ll make more. Believe me, anyone that was involved in that, we will hunt them down and take them in,” he told KCAL9′s Suraya Fadel.
Beck met with L.A.’s newly-elected mayor Eric Garcetti about the issue on Wednesday.
Garcetti said residents and visitors should not feel unsafe.
“We’ve got the man power, woman power here. Police are ready tonight. In all parts of town, not just Hollywood, we’ve got extra deployment,” he said.
On the east coast, Beck said criminal flashmobs have become a growing trend. But he doesn’t believe the practice will erupt in L.A.
“We don’t see that as a trend in Los Angeles. We have seen incidents but it’s not a common thing,” he said.
The crime spree followed less than a month after a 23-year-old woman was fatally stabbed near the Hollywood & Highland complex following an argument with three transients.