Pickpockets and phone thieves slammed “Pride in the Park” and Boystown bars in late June, city data shows

Social media has been abuzz with stories about widespread phone thefts on the weekend of June 26 and 27 in Boystown bars and at the Pride in the Park festival downtown.

“If you didn’t even get your phone stolen, did you even go to Pride in the Park?” asked one man on Twitter.

“Phones were getting stolen left and right during Pride in the Park,” another man tweeted.

Now, freshly-released data from the Chicago Police Department suggests the online rumors of phone thefts were based in fact. At least 39 people filed police reports for pickpocket and theft incidents in Grant Park during the budding two-day Pride festival, which was in its second year, records show.

With about 20 reports per day, Pride in the Park racked up the same number of daily theft cases as the 2018 Lollapalooza, a much bigger event.

And, police records show 16 people filed pickpocket and theft reports in Boystown on June 26 and 27. According to the info:

  • 15 of the thefts happened inside bars
  • 13 of the crimes happened on the 3300 block of North Halsted, which is home to the city’s premiere LGBTQ-focused bars like Sidetrack and Roscoe’s Tavern.

The actual number of phones stolen at festivals and in bars is probably much higher than the crime stats suggest. Unless victims are certain that someone stole their phone, police will often classify the incident as a “lost property” matter rather than a crime.

Prosecutors filed misdemeanor theft charges against three people allegedly found in a car with at least 60 cellphones near Montrose Harbor early on June 26. But it’s not clear where all of the phones came from.

Pickpocket incidents began soaring at the city’s major events and in Boystown bars during the summer of 2019.

That year’s Lollapalooza recorded 209 theft cases and the 2019 Pride Fest in Boystown logged at least 30 thefts, records show.

But, like so many Americans, phone thieves’ incomes were hard-hit by COVID as the city canceled all major events and nightlife venues operated at limited capacity after being shuttered for weeks. Now, the festivals are coming back, and the city’s bars are packed with partiers.

Police say bars and festivals present prime opportunities for thieves because potential victims are usually distracted and may be intoxicated. And, because there can be a lot of bumping and touching in crowded spaces, victims are less likely to notice when a pickpocket takes their property.

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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