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Police working to stop violent robberies targeting shoppers at Houston's upscale shopping centers

Houston police said it's almost like a full-time job for crooks spending hours scoping out possible victims before they make their move.

HOUSTON — Across Houston's most ritzy shopping venues, crooks are taking aim at shoppers spending thousands of dollars.

"These are very violent gang members and crews that are out working these robberies," said HPD Commander Tinsley Guinn-Shaver.

Houston police said these crews are focusing on five key areas including the Galleria, River Oaks District and Johnny Dang and Co. on Richmond. 

"This has become their full-time job," said Sr. Ofc. Jeff Brieden with HPD's Robbery Division. "They are patiently waiting for those who they think will be a good target."

Security experts tell KHOU 11 News these high end shopping centers are perfect hunting grounds for crooks -- plenty of targets to pick from and a guarantee that whatever they steal from you will be worth thousands of dollars. 

"They see their victims on a daily basis," said former HPD detective Mark Stephens. They know who they think they can take."

Stephens says choosing their target is only step 1. The crooks then follow shoppers home or to their next stop. That's when things can get violent.

"It's going to escalate," said Stephens. "It's escalating now."

RELATED: 10 robbery suspects 'terrorizing our community,' are in custody, HPD chief says, but more are out there

Earlier this month, crooks followed shoppers from Johnny Dang and Co. in the Galleria all the way to Alvin where they put a gun to a man's face. 

"If you're not aware of what's coming then they have all the power," said Stephens. "They have the element of surprise."

So Houston police want to change that. 

Undercover officers are watching these high-end centers closely too. It's already paying off. 

Dominique Vorrice and Juwan Nevels were arrested following a shopper in a Lamborghini leaving Johnny Dang and Co. It's just the beginning of aggressive efforts to take these crews down. 

"There will come a time that they'll get caught," said Ofc. Brieden. "Their day will come. It's just a matter of when."

Brieden says HPD's work with other law enforcement partners like the ATF and FBI has helped contain these crews. 

Once they're caught and arrested, some are facing federal charges too. Those come with longer sentences and harsher penalties.

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