Burglars used sledgehammers to break through plate glass windows, then swarmed two Melrose Avenue shops to scoop up pricey urban street wear and accessories.
The Cool by Cool Kicks shop near Fairfax Avenue was targeted early Monday morning. Early Tuesday, it was the Bape boutique farther to the west, near Doheny Drive.
These were only the latest incidents in a trend of burglars breaking in through the fronts of fashionable westside shops, deploying crews to gather merchandise quickly, and then departing in multiple vehicles before law enforcement summoned by burglar alarm can arrive.
The Golden Triangle shopping district of Beverly Hills has also been targeted the past year by swarm break-ins. They are appealing to criminal crews because they offer the potential for large returns, but as property offenses, carry lesser punishment than crimes that involve confrontation with people.
Owners of The Cool, which features stylish athletic shoes and street apparel by such brands as Supreme and Bape, estimated their loss at as much as $250,000.
A staffer at Bape, which is based in Japan, said he was not authorized to comment on how much merchandise was stolen.
Security camera video at The Cool reveals it took a man with a portable powered grinding wheel several minutes to cut through the padlock on the security gates. Then, another man brought a sledgehammer to smash a plate glass window, clearing the way for six others who suddenly appeared from down the block. The crew squeezed into the store through the gaping hole and grabbed merchandise before leaving in at least four vehicles.
"I believe these guys been here before," said "Mook," one of the store owners. "So, they scoped out the place...because they only went to the expensive items."
Some of the clothing items in the shop retail for more than $1,000 apiece. The owners lamented the loss but said the bigger challenge for them is re-stocking the collectible and hard-to-find items that date back as much as 10 years.
"What makes us unique is we had these items," said Adeel Shams, another of the store owners victimized by the burglaries. "They're where we got our credibility. So, it's kind of tough now."
The owners had met in grad school in Virginia and brought their business concept west, starting with a store offering collectible athletic shoes called Cool Kicks. The Cool was a recent offshoot, adding apparel.
It had been burglarized once before since opening last spring.
Shams added, "We've done our best with security cameras, with gates, with anything, everything that we could do, and it's just like 'What else can we do?' Do we have to sleep here?"
One measure being discussed with other merchants is hiring overnight security guards.