Fourteen "smash-and-grab" robbery suspects recently arrested in Los Angeles, California, are back on the streets thanks in part to the county's controversial zero cash bail policy, the city's police chief said this week.
During a press conference Thursday, Chief Michel Moore told reporters, “All the suspects taken into custody are out of custody, either as a result of one juvenile, or the others as a result of bailing out or zero-bail criteria," according to Fox News.
Moore added that the 14 suspects had been arrested in connection with 11 separate robberies that took place over a ten-day period late last month, from November 18 to 28. In total, the crimes are believed to have cost the targeted businesses $338,000 in total stolen merchandise and more than $40,000 in total property damage.
Many have argued that lenient treatment for offenders has opened the door to a rash of "smash-and-grab" robberies in communities across the U.S. in recent months.
In response to the news, Los Angeles County's liberal district attorney, George Gascón — a supporter of zero cash bail — promised that "smash-and-grab" suspects would be held accountable for their crimes.
"Our office has been collaborating with multiple law enforcement agencies and once all the evidence has been gathered, we will review the cases to determine what criminal charges should be filed," Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón, said in a statement, CBS News reported. "These brazen acts hurt all of us: retailers, employees, and customers alike."
A statewide zero cash bail policy for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies was implemented last year as part of a supposed effort to reduce overcrowding in jails amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the policy ended in June.
A similar policy, however, was continued in Los Angeles County after Gascón was sworn in. On Twitter, the district attorney called the money bail system "unsafe" and "unjust" and vowed to end it altogether. He later told U.S. News and World Report that "eliminating money bail is one of the moral imperatives of our generation."
Amid the news of the 14 released looting suspects, Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Moore calling for the policy to be terminated.
"We need the help of our criminal justice system, of our judges, of our jailers," Garcetti said. "We have opened up a lot of the city because we're in a better place with COVID. We should be able to also open up our jails, and we should be able to have judges that put people behind those bars."