"The elimination of cash bail for these types of offenses is really an invitation to these kind of folks who are inclined to break the law and inclined to do it so brazenly, to push them over to say, 'hey, if I was to get caught, I'm going to be right back out again,'" Los Angeles Police Protective League spokesperson Tom Saggau told Fox News Digital.
Zero cash bail, also known as no-cash bail or zero-dollar bail, refers to individuals who are arrested and charged with a crime then released from custody without having to pay any bail money upfront.
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The policy was first rolled out in LA during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to decrease jail crowding. It was terminated in July 2022, but a judge reinstated the policy in May after a class action lawsuit was filed by recent arrestees who couldn't afford to pay bail and had to remain in custody for a few extra days.
The consequence of the policy has led to more smash and grab robberies across the city, law enforcement officials say, and suspects become repeat offenders when incidents are charged as misdemeanors. This was evident in the recent 'flash mob' robbery at a Topanga mall's Nordstrom over the weekend, Saggau said.
It marked the second organized retail theft of an LA establishment within just one week.
"What we're seeing in Los Angeles is that very high-end items [are stolen] because there is just a huge resale market for them," he said. "It's really difficult for a short-staffed police department to track all those types of things down."
"Those folks need to be held accountable in a way that they've got to forfeit their freedoms, and that's what they choose to do when they break the law or the manner in which they do," he added.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who has been struggling to recruit more officers as the department shrunk to less than 9,000 officers this year, also criticized the policy earlier this month during a hearing.
"I do believe that bail acts as a general deterrence," Moore testified alongside LA Sheriff Robert Luna, Courthouse News Service first reported. "It creates consequences. You face a risk of being incarcerated as a punishment."
Luna, who was elected last year and replaced Alex Villanueva, said when people are released immediately due to zero cash bail, it "negatively impacts the credibility of our justice system."
Since zero bail was reinstated by the court, Luna said the county department arrested 1,573 people, 226 of whom were released and rearrested for committing other crimes once released.
"That’s concerning," Luna said. "There’s individuals here that have been released on zero bail then turned around and committed murder, in the last several weeks."
LAPD officers are still searching for the 20 to 30 suspects who ransacked between $60,000 and $100,000 worth of merchandise from Nordstrom on Saturday. If suspects are caught, however, it's unclear how hard of a sentence progressive District Attorney George Gascón will hand out.
"He's comfortable with a stern talking to a warm hug and milk and cookies before some of these crooks go to bed," Saggau said of Gascón. "It's the worst type of appeasement, and it's unfortunate, but I know that the folks that are working to try and capture these criminals."
Steve Cooley, LA's former DA from 2000 to 2012, agreed with Saggau. He said Gascón usually brings sentences down to "the least common denominator," but he could bring a harsher sentencing for the Nordstrom ransacking given its high profile.
"They should have enhanced and greatly-increased bail for these suspects," Cooley told Fox News Digital. "They should be doing search warrants for the homes of the suspects to find the stolen property that probably came from other smash and grab mob robberies."
These kind of "flash mob robberies," Cooley added, are a new phenomenon. He also blames zero cash bail for their rise to popularity in the Golden State.
"They did not exist when I was district attorney," he said.
Gascón's office provided a statement to Fox News Digital:
"The brazen organized retail thefts that have been reported in Glendale and Topanga are unacceptable, outrageous and harm our entire community. My office is in contact with the Los Angeles and Glendale police departments, and have offered the support of our Organized Crime Division and Bureau of Investigation. We will continue to work collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to hold the individuals involved with these crimes accountable."
Organized retail theft has caused more than $100 billion in product losses across the U.S., according to a 2022 National Retail Security Survey.