Tobacco and booze targeted as convenience store robberies soar to record high

Convenience store robberies, which have traditionally netted only small amounts of money, are skyrocketing in Chicago as criminals turn their attention to something even more valuable than cash: the stores’ high-priced tobacco and liquor inventory.

Robberies of convenience stores are up 100% in Chicago through September 1 this year, putting 2020 on-pace to be the worst year for such crimes in at least 20 years, according to CPD records.

The surge is particularly evident in some North Side police districts like the Lakeview-based 19th (Town Hall) District, where 22 convenience stores were robbed through September 1. By comparison, the district saw just four such cases during the same period last year. Of all robberies in Town Hall this year, more than 1 in 10 has targeted a convenience store, records show.

Also seeing significant increases in convenience store hold-ups are the Central (1st) District, which saw 16 cases through September 1 this year compared to eight last year; the 17th (Albany Park) District, up from four cases to twelve this year, and the 12th and 14th Districts which saw a combined 20 convenience store hold-ups through September 1 compared to five in 2019.

Police reports indicate that, while the robbers do take the stores’ unsecured cash, they are also taking large volumes of high-priced merchandise, particularly cigarettes and cigars. The tobacco products are easily resold on the black market, according to police sources.

Last week, prosecutors said a North Side man pulled off three convenience store robberies in Rogers Park in under two weeks this month.

Lamonte Suggs | CPD

Lamonte Suggs, 19, allegedly pushed store employees and swung at others as he went behind counters to steal cash and cigarettes from stores on the 1500 block of West Devon and the 1200 block of West Loyola.

Judge David Navarro ordered Suggs held in lieu of $30,000 bail on three counts of robbery.

Police continue to issue business alerts to warn convenience stores when patterns emerge in specific areas. Most recently, warnings have been issued for the 24th (Rogers Park) and Albany Park police districts.

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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