Gunmen robbed at least six taco trucks and street stands on Wednesday, the latest in a string of more than a dozen such holdups across Los Angeles, police said.
Waving guns in the faces of vendors, the teams of two to four gunmen stole cash and cellphones, striking as the businesses were closing up for the evening in communities in Hollywood, Echo Park and downtown Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
LAPD investigators said the spate of robberies began at about 9:40 p.m. in the area near 3rd and Bixel streets. Five minutes later, the same suspects targeted a taco stand at Union Avenue and Shatto Street in the Westlake area before fleeing in a vehicle described as a white Honda. Then at about 11 p.m., a taco stand in the 5900 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood was robbed. A second location in the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard was also hit.
Ten minutes later, another taco truck at Alvarado Street and Glendale Boulevard was robbed by armed bandits. The string of robberies concluded about 11:30 p.m., when gunmen held up a stand at 9th Street and Broadway.
LAPD detectives described the suspects as men in their mid-20 to early 30s wearing dark clothing. During each incident, the suspects approached the victims, displayed a handgun, demanded money and made their escape in a white sedan with stolen property.
The LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division is already investigating a string of more than a dozen armed robberies at taco trucks and stands in recent months. Investigators believe the crimes are connected. The getaway vehicle identified in some of those crimes is similar to the one seen by victims on Wednesday, according to law enforcement sources.
The surge of street vendor robberies began on May 28 at 12:25 a.m. with a heist at Central Avenue and East 101st Street.
Men armed with handguns struck two more taco trucks that night within a mile of the first robbery, according to police.
The men held up a taco truck at Century Boulevard and San Pedro Street in the South Los Angeles community of Green Meadows around 11 p.m., according to police. They then robbed another truck, at 103rd Street and Avalon Boulevard just a few blocks away, police said.
In the second of those robberies, of a Tacos Los Chemas truck, two suspects wearing hoodies jammed a gun into one victim’s neck and pistol-whipped another, according to video obtained by KTLA-TV. The suspects fled both robberies in a white car, police said.
A few days later, authorities say the same suspects in the first holdup carried out two more robberies within five minutes of each other: one at East 103rd Street and Compton Avenue and the other at East 92nd Street and Central Avenue.
There has also been at least one taco truck holdup in the Florence area, which is in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
In all the robberies, the suspects made off with undisclosed amounts of cash, police said.
Rudy Espinoza, executive director of the advocacy group Inclusive Action for the City, said that food trucks may be easier targets for robbers than brick-and-mortar establishments.
“There’s informality with what they’re doing, and it exposes them to people mistreating them,” said Espinoza. “Food trucks and street vendors operate in the open-air economy, in this gray informal space, and I think historically our city hasn’t welcomed or taken care of these entrepreneurs.”