Cops: “Flier boy” thieves targeting victims in cars, restaurants, and on the street

Flier boys—the seemingly endless parade of men who solicit for “charitable” donations while handing out fliers on city streets—are once again the focus of a community alert from Chicago police.

Area Central detectives have issued a series of warnings to inform the public that flier boys are very often members of theft and robbery teams that use the handbills as a way to distract victims and strike up conversations with potential targets.

The latest alert from police demonstrates the variety of techniques the crews are using.

“The offenders are seeking various opportunities to steal cell phones from victims who are on the sidewalk, in their vehicles or in restaurants,” the bulletin said. “The offenders often utilize fliers as a distraction while pretending to be fundraisers.”

In restaurants, the thieves are infamous for placing their flier on top of a cell phone that is on a diner’s table. When the thief picks up their handbill, they take the phone with them.

Police specifically mentioned three incidents last week that involved flier boys in the Loop:

• At 3 p.m. last Wednesday, a driver’s cell phone was snatched from his hand through an open car window in the 300 block of North Michigan. Police described the offender only as a black male.

• At around the same time, a man with fliers in his hand ripped a phone from a woman’s hand in the first block of East Lake Street. The thief was described as male, black, and dressed in all red.

• Around 4:45 p.m. last Thursday, a thief distracted a restaurant patron and stole their phone in the first block of West Lake Street. No description of the offender was available.

The community alert offers the usual list of tips from police: Be aware of your surroundings. Report suspicious activity to 911. One tip that will undoubtedly help you the most did not make the list offered by police: Avoid flier boys at all costs and when they are near you, put everything you own on lockdown.

Anyone with information about the thieves may contact Area Central detectives at (312) 747-8384.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is