Canoga Park. Los Angeles Police Department made two arrests of prolific burglars last night. One hit an apparel store at the Topanga Mall, and the other was arrested in the act of hitting his eleventh San Fernando Valley women's intimate apparel store; this one in the 19700 block of Ventura Boulevard.
"We had dubbed this man the Panty Bandit," explained Det. Merrill Dunn, case investigator out of the Topanga Detective Division. "His penchant for breaking into lingerie shops told us this was a matter of organized retail crime, which means he's reselling the merchandise to fences or shipping it out of the country."
The lingerie shop burglaries began January 21, 2016 with the break in of Les Corset Lingerie in Woodland Hills, which has been hit twice since, the last time being September 19. The suspect also hit Romantix Inc twice on Sherman Way and once on Van Nuys Boulevard. All told, the burglaries amount to over $10,000 in loss, not including the damage caused by smashing glass windows and doors to gain entry.
Last night, the owner of Excitement got an alert from his business of an intruder and called 9-1-1. A sergeant arrived quickly and detained Carlos Olivas, 35, outside the store. It was the second time since late August that the Panty Bandit had hit this store. Olivas was booked for commercial burglary and his bail should be set at over $200,000, based on $20,000 bail for each attributed crime.
In an unrelated burglary the same night, officers answered an alarm call at the Hollister Store at the Topanga Mall. They were able to verify a burglary had occurred and got a description of a repeat suspect from the store manager. Officers searched the area and found Marco Naranjo, 21, fitting the description, about a mile away, with his bicycle and stolen loot, already shooting heroin into his arm. "He still had some of the stolen items, but he had already unloaded much of it to a local fence," explained Det. Dunn. "Part of our investigation will be to follow the trail of the merchandise." Naranjo was booked for commercial burglary and his bail was set at $80,000.
"What the public doesn't realize is that organized retail crime amounts to over $30 billion in loss annually," said Capt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Topanga Patrol Division. "Investigations of organized retail theft have led to operations shipping merchandise to South American and the Middle East. It's a problem much bigger and more sinister than just simple shoplifting a sweater. The consequences for property crimes are now so small, there is little deterrence."
Property crime in the Topanga Area is up 8% this year, and nearly 20% since 2014.
Anyone with information in this case is urged to call Det. Merrill Dunn, Topanga Detective Division, at 818-756-5863. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may also visit ww.lapdonline.org, and click on "Anonymous Web Tips" under the "Get Involved-Crime Stoppers" menu to submit an online tip. Lastly, tipsters may also download the "P3 Tips" mobile application and select the LA Regional Crime Stoppers as their local program.