The rites of spring materialized in all the wrong ways for more than 100 affluent Westside residents this week.
Police say they suspect that a wild vandalism spree was carried out by a group of youths who shattered car windows, slashed tires and destroyed mailboxes along a stretch of seven-figure neighborhoods between Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades.
The malicious melee began shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday near La Cienega Boulevard north of Wilshire and didn't end until nearly four hours later in Temescal Canyon near Pacific Coast Highway.
During that time, the unknown assailants weaved a trail of destruction along some of the most upscale streets on the Westside, blowing out Mercedes' windows in Bel-Air with huge ball bearings, strafing parked cars with pellet guns in Brentwood Park, and throwing alcohol bottles and slashing tires at random.
"It looked like a war zone this morning," said one anonymity-seeking Bel-Air resident whose Jaguar sedan was hit on Stradella Road in Bel-Air. "There was glass all over the street and windows smashed everywhere. I saw at least a dozen cars that had been hit within a two-block area."
Police and neighborhood security guards said they were surprised that such an extended vandalism spree could go on unabated, especially since car alarms were blaring all along the crime route. Authorities said one witness reported seeing four youths in a red or silver Toyota or Nissan sedan, but police said no one reported the wrongdoing until nearly 6:30 a.m.
"It's really amazing that nobody saw them considering how long it went on," said Los Angeles Police Sgt. William De La Torre. Police were still getting calls late Tuesday afternoon as residents discovered broken windows and damaged property.
Paul Dalton, a supervisor with Westec Security Inc., said the vandals would target one area and then move on "before it got too hot." He said that no residents reported anything stolen from any of the vehicles, although some car radios were ripped loose.
"It doesn't seem like it was something planned, it was just a vandalism spree done on a whim," he said. "We've seen these things before, but never over such a wide area. It caught everybody unaware."
Private security firms in the area said they had beefed up patrols in Brentwood, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. Police, who don't yet have damage estimates, said they would not be surprised if the vandals decided to strike again.
"It was just one of those cases where I guess the rites of spring got to them and then we got hit with it," Dalton said. "We suspect that it was juveniles involved because of the type of activity, but then again, who knows."