Organized shoplifting teams, some taking advantage of children who appeared to be no more than 10-years-old, struck retailers repeatedly this weekend in the Loop, Magnificent Mile, and Lincoln Park, according to police reports.
One crew pepper-sprayed a retail worker. Last Wednesday, another theft team slammed a store employee’s head into a glass merchandise case.
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Retailers are dealing with a wave of organized shoplifting teams that frequently use juveniles to do their dirty work. North Side locations of Forever 21, H&M, Ulta Beauty, DSW, Patagonia, and Burlington have been struck repeatedly — sometimes twice within hours.
On Sunday, a team of six teenage shoplifters was spotted at the Michigan Avenue Victoria’s Secret store minutes after they struck the nearby H&M location, 840 North Michigan. Police arrested two members of the crew after an H&M manager identified them.
About five minutes later, around 5:10 p.m., a two-person shoplifting team stole bags of winter coats from Patagonia, 1800 North Clybourn. The offenders stuffed the high-end gear into duffle bags, pushed employees, and fled. No arrests were made.
The same Patagonia store was struck by a group of kids at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Photographer Bret Miller captured video of cops detaining the youths while officers pulled piles of coats out of duffle bags on a nearby side street. Police detained five juveniles.
Much of the merchandise recovered at the scene bore price tags from Marshall’s.
Ironically, a group of very young kids accompanied by a 6’2″ man targeted the South Loop Marshall’s location just minutes earlier. An officer who chased the South Loop thieves said they were “real little…10 years old.”
Also on Saturday afternoon, fire personnel transported a Forever 21 employee to Mercy Hospital after a shoplifting team deployed pepper-spray and fought with customers at the chain’s Loop location, 10 South State. Witnesses said the thieves fled into a nearby subway station with “big bags of merchandise.”
On Friday, juvenile shoplifting crews struck twice in the South Loop, hitting DSW around 10:10 a.m. and Burlington three hours later. No arrests were made.
Theft crews struck at least four downtown stores last Wednesday evening.
Around 5 p.m., seven thieves stole merchandise and knocked down the manager at Zumiez, 2 South State. When the employee tried to take back some of the stolen property, one offender punched him in the face and pushed his head into a glass display case, according to Chicago police. The victim refused medical attention and the shoplifters, all between 13- and 20-years-old, got away with about $1,000 worth of goods.
About an hour later, six male and female teens targeted the Express store at 676 North Michigan.
Next up on Wednesday: The Ulta Beauty store at 430 North Michigan. Three offenders stole about $800 worth of products from the store around 8:40 p.m. Two were later arrested near the Garfield Red Line station.
Just as those teens were running out of Ulta, a group of four male teenagers was hitting Burlington’s South Loop location again. No arrests were made.