The Epidemic of Smash-and-Grab Robberies

by | Apr 12, 2024

The Epidemic of Smash-and-Grab Robberies

It’s a quiet evening. You’re closing up your store, ready to head home after a long day’s work. As you lock the door, you hear a sudden commotion. Your heart races as you rush back inside, only to find shattered glass and chaos. Sadly, this scene has become all too familiar across the United States, as the epidemic of smash-and-grab robberies continues to plague businesses both large and small.

What Is a Smash-and-Grab?

The term “smash-and-grab” paints a vivid picture. It’s a type of burglary where speed is of the essence. Typically, thieves target easily accessible storefronts, using brute force (like hammers or even vehicles) to shatter windows or doors. Once inside, they target high-value, easy-to-grab items like jewelry, designer goods, or electronics before making a lightning-fast getaway.

It’s a crime of opportunity, often executed in minutes, leaving a trail of destruction and despair.

But the problem doesn’t stop there. We’re also witnessing the rise of flash mob robberies and ram-raiding, two specific forms of organized theft that are equally alarming. Flash mobs involve large groups of individuals descending upon a store simultaneously, overwhelming staff and security measures. Ram-raiding entails criminals using vehicles to crash into storefronts for quick access to merchandise.

These criminal tactics are not just isolated incidents. They’re part of a larger trend that’s causing significant damage to businesses and communities across the country.

About the seemingly endless stream of smash-and-grab videos and news headlines, David Johnson of the National Retail Federation (NRF) said, “First and foremost, these are very traumatic events. They also have the biggest potential for violence.”

The High Cost of Chaos

The repercussions of smash-and-grab robberies extend far beyond the immediate loss of inventory. According to recent statistics, these crimes cost businesses billions of dollars each year in property damage, stolen goods, and lost revenue.

The NRF reports that theft resulted in $121.6 billion in losses in 2023 for U.S. retailers—up from $112.1 billion in 2022. California alone lost $8.720 billion, the highest in the country.

Graph - Retail Theft Losses 2018-2025

Of those losses, external theft—which includes organized retail crime (ORC) and smash-and-grabs—accounted for the largest segment, at 37%. But, to reiterate, the losses exceed the immediate cost of goods stolen.

Where in the United States Do Smash-and-Grabs Happen?

Once again, California comes out on top of a list that no one wants to win. Los Angeles was the city most affected by ORC in 2022. All told, California had three—L.A., San Francisco/Oakland, and Sacramento—in the top ten.

The U.S. Cities Most Affected by ORC in 2022 (Source: NRF)

  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. San Francisco/Oakland, CA
  3. Houston, TX
  4. New York, NY
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Sacramento, CA – Chicago, IL (tie)
  8. Denver, CO – Miami, FL – Albuquerque, NM (tie)

Those metropolitan areas are hotbeds, but you don’t have to look far to find a smash-and-grab news story near your hometown.

The Impact of Smash-and-Grab Robberies

Broken windows and broken spirits. The toll of smash-and-grab robberies goes beyond the financial loss. Consider this:

  • Ancillary Costs: Increased insurance premiums, costly repairs, unplanned downtime, and lost inventory eat away at the bottom line.
  • Employee Trauma: Staff are left shaken, sometimes injured, dealing with the emotional aftermath of such brazen violence.
  • Consumer Unease: Shoppers may feel less safe frequenting areas with a reputation for these crimes.

And we can’t overstate the psychological toll an attack takes on business owners and employees. The sense of violation and vulnerability experienced after a smash-and-grab robbery can linger long after the physical damage has been repaired.

Many small business owners pour their hearts and souls into their enterprises, only to see their hard work shattered in an instant by brazen criminals.

Recent Smash-and-Grab Stories in the News

Let’s look at some of the more memorable headlines from the crime beat.

More than 70 individuals were arrested for a smash-and-grab spree that took place in Philadelphia over two nights in late September. Among other locations, the mob hit an Apple Store, Foot Locker, a liquor store, and a Lululemon, causing extensive damage and lost inventory. Even businesses not targeted chose to close in the interest of safety, resulting in lost revenue.

Target recently closed nine stores in locations as far apart as New York City and San Francisco, blaming an increase in retail theft. A company rep said, “We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests and contributing to unsustainable business performance.”

A few more rapid-fire stories:

This is just a sampling. More and more headlines could get added to this list every day.

Are We Catching the Culprits?

Unfortunately, the arrest rate for smash-and-grab robberies is frustratingly low. Why?

  • Speed: The entire crime unfolds in mere minutes, making it difficult for police to respond swiftly enough.
  • Organization: These crimes can be well-orchestrated, often involving out-of-state groups, complicating investigations.

Despite the prevalence of common security measures, apprehending suspects in smash-and-grab cases remains a daunting challenge for law enforcement agencies. The speed and efficiency with which these crimes are executed often leave little time for authorities to respond effectively.

However, there have been instances where swift action and collaboration between law enforcement and community members have led to successful arrests and convictions. These victories serve as a glimmer of hope amidst the chaos, highlighting the importance of proactive measures and vigilance in combating smash-and-grab robberies.

In other instances, though, perpetrators evaded capture entirely, leaving behind a trail of frustration and unanswered questions.

Taking a Stand: Can We Stop Smash-and-Grabs?

So, what can be done to prevent smash-and-grab robberies and safeguard livelihoods? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, implementing comprehensive, layered security measures is a crucial first step.

The key to fighting these crimes is prevention and deterrence. Store owners are not powerless. It’s important to note that any single tactic isn’t sufficient in isolation—you need a formidable network of complementary security measures to give criminals pause. Strategies include:

  1. Physical Barriers: Reinforced glass, roll-down security shutters, and bollards can make it harder to breach storefronts.
  2. The Power of Visibility: Bright lighting, clear sight lines, and ample security cameras deter some faint-hearted criminals.
  3. High-Value Lockdown: Keep the most tempting items in secure safes or display cases that are harder to access. (The store may still take damage, but at least your merchandise is safe.)
  4. Community Alertness: Partner with police and neighboring businesses to build a vigilant network.

Traditional security systems, however, are reactive. They rely on alarms and surveillance footage to alert authorities after the fact. By then, the robbers are long gone.

The ideal solution would strike criminals where they stand, causing such immense discomfort and confusion that the crooks would have no choice but to turn and run. Fight fire with fire, or chaos with chaos, as the case may be.

Enter Deep Sentinel’s newest crime suppression solution: FlashBang.

When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge. Learn More About FlashBang.
When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge. Learn More About FlashBang.

The Next Level: When Deterrence Isn’t Enough

While prevention goes a long way, some businesses want more powerful solutions. This is where innovative technology like FlashBang comes in.

FlashBang is not your typical security system. It’s a proactive defense mechanism designed to deter and incapacitate would-be thieves at the scene of the crime. Using a combination of advanced technology and non-lethal (but certainly harmful) deterrents, FlashBang creates a barrier of protection around businesses, making them less vulnerable to smash-and-grab attacks.

  • Sensory Overload: Leveraging painful pepper spray, disorienting smoke bombs, blinding strobe lights, and deafening high-pitched sound, the system interrupts the robbery and drives thieves out.
  • Powerful Partnership: FlashBang integrates directly with Deep Sentinel’s award-winning live video monitoring service, AI, and PoE security cameras, allowing businesses to deploy additional protection.

How does it work? When human movement triggers the system’s integrated cameras, a professional security guard accesses real-time footage. The guard can then intervene and choose to deploy additional FlashBang deterrents, designed to discomfort, disorient, and deter intruders. In addition to thwarting the immediate threat, these deterrents attract lots of attention, increasing the likelihood of swift action.

As the criminals scurry and writhe in pain, the Deep Sentinel guards are already on the phone with local police, providing detailed suspect descriptions and directing them to the crime scene. This proactive approach provides peace of mind to business owners and employees alike—and gives criminals a taste of their own medicine.

The End of Smash-and-Grab Crime as We Know It

The threat of smash-and-grab robberies looms large over businesses and communities worldwide. But with the advent of innovative solutions like FlashBang, there is good reason for optimism. By embracing preventative measures and staying one step ahead of would-be thieves, businesses can not only protect their assets but also reclaim their sense of security.

Options like FlashBang provide an extra layer of defense, while solutions like Deep Sentinel’s video surveillance system backed by professional live intervention offer another way to fight back proactively. Combine the two, and robbers won’t know what hit them.

Let’s not let fear prevail. It’s time to secure our businesses and finally make criminals—rather than crime—pay.

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When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge.
With criminals becoming more violent, the response needs to become more aggressive. FlashBang subdues even the most determined intruders with smoke bombs, pepper spray, strobes, and sirens. Visit or call 833.983.6006 for more information.

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