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PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — Nearly a dozen thieves working together swarmed into a Louis Vuitton store in Palo Alto, stealing more than $100,000 in handbags in the second such theft at the Stanford Shopping Center in three weeks, police said Wednesday.

“I’m worried about my safety, because I’m working here and I’m an employee,” said Lakshay Soorma who works at a department store located in Stanford Shopping Center. “I have to make sure my clients, my customers, they are safe here too.”

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Palo Alto police said the latest incident happened on Monday at about 5:30 p.m. A coordinated group of eleven suspects ran into the store and grabbed 36 handbags, running through the mall and getting into five vehicles before officers arrived.

Witnesses were only able to describe the suspects as males and females, possibly in their late teens or early twenties, all wearing face coverings, police said. No one was hurt and no weapons were used, police said.

The five vehicles used in the getaway were a gray Lexus sedan, a gray Infinity SUV, a white Audi sedan, a black four-door Hyundai sedan, and a red two-door Honda sedan. No surveillance video was immediately available from police.

Witness photo of a woman running through Stanford Shopping Center with stolen handbags from Louis Vuitton store, June 7, 2021. (Palo Alto Police Dept.)

A witness was able to photograph one of the suspects as she fled through the mall carrying stolen handbags.

On May 19, a similar theft happened at a different store at the Stanford Shopping Center, where a group of at least ten suspects stole more than $150,000 in handbags from Neiman Marcus, although police said the vehicles used in that incident were different than the one at the Louis Vuitton store.

“We did have a somewhat similar incident last month on May 19, also at the Stanford Shopping Center, at our Macy’s store where a large group of subjects came in very quickly together, went straight to the handbag section and also made off with quite a haul,” said a Palo Alto Police spokesperson. “At this point, we don’t have any specific information that would link the two crimes together, other than the similarity of the offense.”

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On May 18 in San Francisco, a group of thieves ransacked a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Union Square, making off with $90,000 in merchandise.

Palo Alto police were working with regional partners to see if the same group of suspects may be connected to other similar burglaries.

Many stores have hired security guards to serve as a deterrent, but many are told not to chase after shoplifters.

“Terrible because right now everybody’s just starting to get back on their feet,” said shopper Cindy Barraco. “I think they should be able to chase them down or whatever they have to do to catch these people, because by the time they call the police, they’re gone.”

Soorma said this type of crime is a constant concern, especially immediately after an incident.

“I really can’t do anything, but I only can record on my phone, but these days it’s very unsafe to do that too because they know that’s the only proof,” Soorma said. “I always cross my fingers, because when we hear about things like that and we have thoughts like, ‘Oh, what if it’s going to happen to my store, what am I going to be doing?’”

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Anyone with information about this incident was asked to call Palo Alto police at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to (650) 383-8984.

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