Valley restaurants get robbed, New York Times notices

We can debate from today to tomorrow, or from today to an hour from now, why it’s a big deal when the New York Times covers L.A. or the San Fernando Valley, and I really don’t keep an eye on what the NYT is doing.

Luckily Kevin Roderick does it for me, so I have him to thank for pointing me to this New York Times story on the takeover robberies plaguing Valley restaurants, including the new Barone’s location in Valley Glen and the Valley Inn (in Sherman Oaks??).

The biggest thing I got out of the story is that the Ski Mask Bandits, as they’re being called, just might have a law-enforcement or military background:

“I heard the rumors like everyone else that it is ex-cops,” said Sophia Brodetsky, who owns the Valley Inn, a restaurant in the Sherman Oaks section where robbers struck this month. “They used very short sentences, were very on top of what they were doing and had this whole intimidation routine.”

Police officials say those theories are pure conjecture, but they concede they are baffled.

“Anything’s possible,” Sergeant Sands said. “We don’t know who these people are. Sometimes people who are organized may have had some prior training, but there are police magazines that show the movements, too.”

Wearing ski masks and sometimes two sets of clothes, the robbers enter restaurants at closing time and order everyone to the floor. One robber presses his gun against the cheek of the bartender, while the other brandishes a rifle for the cashier.

Within three minutes, it is all over; the till is cleaned, and the safe, too. Sometimes, they take the money and watches of any customers unfortunate enough to have lingered until closing time.

“They had their finger on the safety of the gun,” said Mr. Monteleone, a co-owner of Barone’s in the Valley Glen section. “They were very, very calm. There was no shaking, no range even, in their voices.”

Alas, they’re not all THAT bright when it comes to the risk/reward equation:

Because most restaurants make most of their money in credit card purchases, the take for the robbers is usually under $1,000, the police said.

“Who would do an armed robbery for a few hundred dollars?” said Rodolfo Costella, the owner of Ca’ Del Sole, a restaurant popular with Universal Studio executives, and the latest one hit by the robbers. “If you think about the time they spend planning this, if they really worked, they would make more money.”

So it’s true — crime doesn’t pay. And one of these Ski Mask Bandits could end up a very unhappy, seriously wounded camper, like one of the guys who tried to knock over the Maxon’s Pharmacy in Sherman Oaks on Aug. 18.