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World: Los Angeles police announce 18 arrests in massive organized retail theft ring day after new sheriff sworn in

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The Los Angeles Police Department on Sunday announced the arrests of 18 suspects, ranging from age 15 to 20, in a massive, organized retail theft operation carried out over a two-day period last week.

Starting Thursday, organized retail theft incidents occurred at four shoe and clothing retailer chain locations. Two incidents occurred in the LAPD Southeast Division, one in the Hollenbeck Division, and one in the city of Paramount within the area of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

Police said multiple suspects took large amounts of clothing with an estimated value of $23,000.

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The 18 suspects, who live throughout the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, were arrested for violation of California Penal code §490.4 PC (Organized Retail Theft) and 487 PC (Grand Theft), a felony.

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New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, right, holds the hand of his wife as they pray with their family before Luna is sworn in as the 34th Los Angeles Sheriff during a ceremony in Los Angeles, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes © AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, right, holds the hand of his wife as they pray with their family before Luna is sworn in as the 34th Los Angeles Sheriff during a ceremony in Los Angeles, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Police said a total of eight vehicles were impounded as part of their investigation, and all the stolen items have been recovered and returned to the shoe and clothing retailers.

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Those same suspects are suspected to be involved in 14 other incidents throughout the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, with an estimated total loss of $90,000 worth of items stolen, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The investigation is ongoing and will be a combined investigative effort of LAPD, LASD, and the clothing retailer’s Loss Prevention personnel.

Anyone with information related to these or other organized retail theft incidents is urged to contact their local or nearest law enforcement agency, according to the police press release.

The announcement came a day after Robert Luna took an oath of office during a Saturday ceremony as the new leader of the nation's largest sheriff's department. He officially begins his term as the 34th Los Angeles County sheriff next week after winning the election last month against incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

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In his speech, Luna promised a new direction, saying he would focus on accountability for deputies and cooperation with elected officials. He will be tasked with bringing down rates of violent and property crime that have spiked in the county, the nation's most populous with about 10 million people.

LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva gives details surrounding a weeklong, statewide operation aimed at combatting human trafficking, at a press conference held in Hall of Justice on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. in Los Angeles, California. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images © (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva gives details surrounding a weeklong, statewide operation aimed at combatting human trafficking, at a press conference held in Hall of Justice on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. in Los Angeles, California. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

"We need to defend good policing," he said, adding, "It is our responsibility to call out bad policing, and we will do so — that’s an element of keeping the public trust."

Villanueva’s term was marred by clashes with members of the county Board of Supervisors after the sheriff refused to enforce COVID-19 vaccine mandates for some 10,000 sworn deputies, which he argued would worsen staffing shortages amid a crime surge. Villanueva, a one-term Democrat, was also a vocal critic of the defund the police movement and the rise of violent crime after Black Lives Matter protests and riots.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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