LAPD Suspects ‘Flocking’ Gang Members Are Responsible for Celebrity Burglaries

Members of the Crips hand-select teams of burglars to prey upon homes in wealthy Los Angeles enclaves, police say, sometimes hitting actors, musicians and sports figures.

LOS ANGELES – What do celebrities Emmy Rossum and Alanis Morissette have in common with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Lakers star Nick Young? They, among other denizens of LA’s wealthiest enclaves, are all suspected victims of a crime trend known as “flocking.”

That particular F word is gaining infamy among law enforcement officials who describe a trending crime wave perpetrated by gang members who flock like birds to areas where residential heists provide the biggest payoff.

As reported by the Associated Press, gang members from impoverished neighborhoods of South Los Angeles hand select teams of burglars who don “button-down shirts and hop into shiny luxury sedans to blend in as they search for prime targets” in upscale communities.

Systematically, these ne’er-do-wells are said to knock on front doors with the intent to find a residence with nobody home. Mostly, they have no idea whose home they are actually preying upon, ensuring they sometimes hit houses of the nation’s biggest entertainment and sports figures, police say.

Last week, Rossum reported $150,000 in jewelry stolen from a safe in her home. AP reported after news of the burglary broke Tuesday, the “Shameless” star tweeted, “Thank you to the LAPD. I fully support the police efforts and dedication.”

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Morissette had about $2 million in jewelry and valuables stolen from her Brentwood mansion. Young lost about $500,000 in jewelry and other items during a burglary at his Tarzana home, police said.

So far, no arrests have been made in any of the celebrity cases.

Method to the Madness

Although some of the recent intrusions have shared similarities, police do not suspect a single group is responsible for the crimes or that stars are being targeted specifically. Investigators do speculate many of the break-ins are being committed by members of the same street gang, the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips.

Their day follows a regular routine. Gang leaders meet in the morning on their home turf and select crews of four or five individuals among about 100 gang members – male and female – who carry out burglaries, Los Angeles Police Detective William Dunn told AP.

The groups rotate so the same people are not seen in same neighborhoods and become recognizable.

“They are looking for homes where they think there’s a lot of jewelry inside, BMWs, Mercedes, brand-new cars in the driveway,” Dunn said.

Once identifying a house that appears empty, they send one person to knock on the door, Dunn said.

If no one responds, other gang members break through a side door or smash a window. If no alarm sounds, they head immediately to the master bedroom. In most cases, they are out of the homes within about three minutes and head back to South Los Angeles to pawn any stolen jewelry.

“They don’t take televisions or laptops or iPads,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Michael Maher, a member of the agency’s specialized burglary task force. “Typically it’s a hunt for cash, jewelry and weapons.”

The teams take care to look for houses that appear free of video surveillance cameras or other security systems. If someone answers the door, they will say they are at the wrong house and just walk away, police said.

Even if an alarm is triggered, the sound sometimes just motives the teams to work faster because they know they can be out of the house by the time the alarm company calls the homeowner, then contacts police, Dunn said.

Gang members arrested for “flocking” have told investigators their goal is to get about $10,000 per day from the burglaries, Maher said. The money is used to support the gangs and create bail funds to free members who get arrested, Maher said.

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