Shoplifting mobs are raiding everything from high-end boutiques to your local Walgreens, escaping with merchandise worth thou$ands

A sometimes violent shoplifting team has repeatedly raided high-end retailers to steal expensive purses along the Magnificent Mile, Oak Street, and Rush Street this month, according to several police reports.

But luxury boutiques aren’t the only stores falling victim to organized theft teams. Police are also looking for a two-man team that is stealing bags full of cigarettes from Walgreens locations. And another crew is walking out of Ulta Beauty stores across the city with garbage bags full of stolen products.

Here’s the latest on the three crime patterns:

Luxury store raids

Some of the biggest names in high fashion are losing thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — of dollars to a team of thieves that is storming into their stores to steal purses and handbags from display shelves, according to CPD reports. The raids have been happening during afternoon hours along the Mag Mile and Rush Street corridors.

Around 4 p.m. Monday, an employee at Bottega Veneta admitted a man into the boutique at 800 North Michigan. About eleven other men poured in behind the first. The crew collected about 35 handbags, which retail for thousands of dollars each, from the shelves and ran out the door, according to a property management company’s email to nearby residents. A police report said the crew escaped in at least two cars, including a gray Honda CRV.

Saturday afternoon, a group of six men walked into Salvatore Ferragamo, 645 North Michigan, but they left without taking anything after apparently becoming spooked. A store employee reportedly recognized some of the men as part of a crew that took $43,000 worth of purses and critically injured the shop’s 73-year-old security guard in August.

About an hour later, around 5:30 p.m., the same men stormed into Burberry, 633 North Michigan, pushed the store’s security guard, and stole nine handbags, according to a police report. They fled in cars that were waiting outside, according to witnesses.

Shortly after noon Friday, three men reportedly conducted a similar raid for purses at Intermix at 40 East Delaware. They got away in a gold BMW.

Another report said a similar crime unfolded Monday, September 13, at Moncler, 33 East Oak. Six people wearing masks entered the store and fled with high-end products. At least one of those offenders had a gun, the report said.

Ulta trouble

Earlier this month, Chicago police issued two warnings to businesses about groups of shoplifters who were swarming stores to steal perfumes. One of the warnings said the thieves were escaping with garbage bags filled with stolen merchandise. The other warning said a store on the 400 block of North Michigan was targeted three times between August 27 and August 31.

Chicago police units sit outside the Ulta Beauty, 2754 North Clybourn, following a raid by shoplifters on September 17, 2021. | Peter Buol

While police did not identify the businesses by name, CWBChicago has learned that all of the stores involved are Ulta Beauty locations.

Since the alerts were issued, garbage bag-wielding thieves hit Ulta at 2754 North Clybourn Avenue around 3:45 p.m. Friday and at 1107 South Delano Court in the South Loop around 12:15 p.m. Sunday.

The Ulta thefts are suspected of being part of a large-scale operation that sells stolen name-brand merchandise online at deep discounts.

Walgreens cases

Police are also working to track down a pair of armed men who are stealing cigarettes from Walgreens stores across the city.

On September 11, the men struck three times between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. at 111 South Halsted, 2001 North Milwaukee, and 3222 North Milwaukee, according to CPD reports.

The men, who wear masks, were reportedly traveling in a white four-door Buick.

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