While crime totals fall in Los Angeles, police are contending with a sharp jump in armed robberies, says the Los Angeles Times. Authorities are concerned about a series of takeover robberies targeting restaurants. Detectives say several groups of bandits are targeting smaller, sit-down eateries, usually as owners are counting cash at closing time. The upturn comes as Southern California bank robberies have fallen to 455 last year compared with 2,600 a year during their peak in the early 1990s. Assailants are turning to restaurants because they can quickly make off with several thousand dollars without the security barriers of a bank.
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and other officials are supporting state legislation that would give up to two years of extra prison time to robbers who use masks. The restaurant cases usually involve armed robbers swarming a business. They often make a dramatic gesture, such as holding a gun to someone’s head. They take cash and other valuables not just from the till but also from employees and patrons. Police began noticing a particularly aggressive form of the robbery several years ago. Detectives said the tactics are similar to those of bank robbers starting in the 1990s, when groups would storm branches, using their weapons and sheer numbers to intimidate tellers and customers.