Exclusive: Cops hunting crew responsible for series of robberies and retail raids

The North Michigan Avenue retail district. | Ken Lund, Creative Commons

Chicago cops are trying to catch up with a robbery and theft crew that wreaked havoc near the Mag Mile, Streeterville and Lincoln Park on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

The team has robbed multiple women on the street, stolen phones from customers in restaurants, and snatched more than $30,000 worth of designer handbags in two separate retail raids on and near Michigan Avenue.

But, so far, they’ve managed to get away.

Police responded to the first incidents connected to the team around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after they swiped phones from customers in a Lincoln Park coffee shop.

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Less than an hour later, a woman told police that someone snatched her phone near Huron and Wells and then fled in a dark SUV. While police were speaking with that victim, another woman walked up to them. She said a man who approached her from behind nearby took her phone while implying that he had a weapon.

At least two other phone theft cases in the River North area were reported around the same time.

Investigators connected the incidents to a crew that’s using a black or dark blue SUV, possibly a Toyota RAV4, bearing an Iowa license plate that begins with DUA.

The team returned to action just before 2 p.m. Thursday when they stole ten handbags worth $15,000 from the Saint Laurent boutique, 11 East Walton.

Around 3:30 p.m., four men robbed a victim on the 600 block of North St. Clair and then ran to an SUV that sped east into an alley between Erie and Ontario streets.

Then, at 4:25, three men swiped six handbags worth $17,280 from the Gucci store at 900 North Michigan. Witnesses saw the offenders run west on Walton and climb into an SUV bearing the Iowa plate.

Video surveillance showed the Gucci thieves are three thin black men in their early 20’s who stand about 5’8” tall. One wore a black jacket with white and black-striped pants. Another wore a black coat with gray pants and white shoes. The third wore a white and gray jacket with light blue jeans and white gym shoes.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) told constituents in an email on Thursday, “I am working closely with the 18th District…to share additional information on other robberies that have occurred in the area over the past month.”

“I have expressed my concern to area police and have asked for additional information on area robberies, and for updates on what the police are doing to increase their presence in the neighborhood,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins’ message was sent before the crew returned to his ward for yesterday’s afternoon crime spree.

“I find all incidents that involve strong armed robberies or street intimidation alarming,” Hopkins wrote. “I will work to keep you and your neighbors updated on these issues, and ask that anytime you feel threatened to call 911 immediately.”

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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 news@cwbchicago.com