LOS ANGELES - Tourist hotspots like the L.A. Farmer's Market or Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood have now turned targets for auto smash-and-grabs thieves.
The Los Angeles Police Department is warning tourists with out-of-state license plates. In one incident, police say thieves are seen smashing the rear window of an SUV with Nevada plates and taking whatever they could get their hands on.
In another incident captured on security camera, tourists from Korea and Mexico are seen inside a restaurant while their white van is hit outside -- same M.O., smashing through the window, reaching in to grab luggage, and being careful not open the door and set off the alarm. Later, those suspects are seen in another parking lot dumping passports and other forms of identification.
Investigators say these crimes are tied to gangs from the Bay Area where the suspects are able to send the stolen goods to black markets in Asia and South America.
FOX 11 obtained a copy of a search warrant that indicates LAPD is actively investigating other gangs with the same M.O. -- among them, the Eddie Rock Blood Gang out of San Francisco.
Some of these burglaries from cars can turn dangerous. In 2019, LAPD was involved in a wild pursuit chasing suspected gang members who had allegedly done several smash-and-grabs and were trying to get back home to the Bay Area. The chase eventually ended and the suspects were taken into custody.
For many of the tourist victims, authorities say, these smash-and-grabs can leave them stranded -- ending their vacation trying to get back home with no passport.