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LAPD Probing Rash of Robberies

September 18, 2004|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police are investigating 15 robberies since May by a group of thieves who have targeted fast-food restaurants, grocery stories and small businesses in West Los Angeles.

Dubbed the "hooded bandits" because they cover their faces with masks and bandannas, the robbers have hit nine times this month.

Most of the crimes have taken place along Fairfax Avenue between Pico and Sunset boulevards and on Pico near Fairfax and near Western Avenue. The robbers, armed with semiautomatic handguns, take money from customers. They have not, however, fired shots.

"It appears that they were sporadic in the beginning but they have become prolific in this last month," said Capt. Al Michelena of the Los Angeles Police Department's Robbery-Homicide Division.

"Any time we have a group of armed suspects doing robberies at this rate, we become concerned of the potential for this to escalate to more violent behavior," Michelena said.

Michelena urged any future holdup victims to cooperate with the robbers.

"Don't be a hero," he added. "Don't take risks."

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