Stolen U-Haul trucks. Suspiciously-timed gunfire. License plate tracking data. Those are just some of the puzzle pieces that have Chicago police leaders concerned about overnight raids on the city’s retail corridors in the days and weeks ahead, according to sources who spoke with CWBChicago.
Top police leaders activated the city’s anti-looting response for the first time on November 19 after a group of thieves raided the Neiman Marcus store. 737 North Michigan, and tried to break into a Loop Foot Locker store a short time later.
The theft crews had greater success early on November 26 when they successfully stormed a Foot Locker, North Face, and at least two other stores in Wicker Park and West Town. Canada Goose’s flagship store on the Magnificent Mile was also compromised.
Investigators suspect the same organized group may be responsible for all of the break-ins because CPD license plate readers detected a Jeep Cherokee that was seen at the Wicker Park crimes in the downtown area around the time of the Canada Goose burglary, a source said.
And the thieves may have had bigger plans. Shortly after 3 a.m. Friday, someone fired over a dozen rounds near Maple and Dearborn streets in the Gold Coast. No injuries were reported, and some CPD investigators suspect the gunfire was an attempt by the break-in crews to lure cops away from the Mag Mile and other target-rich retailers.
Coincidentally – or perhaps not – witnesses reported that the shots were fired from a Jeep.
The latest concern for CPD brass? Someone stole three U-Haul trucks from one of the moving company’s facilities in Avondale. Theft teams repeatedly used U-Hauls to ram storefronts and carry away huge volumes of merchandise during looting outbreaks in the spring and summer of 2020.
Late Friday night, Chicago police dispatchers began broadcasting information about the stolen U-Hauls on all CPD’s radio frequencies. So far, only one of them has been found.
Investigators who have spoken with CWBChicago say many of the retail raids are controlled by a larger organization that sells the merchandise online and on the black market. With the holidays in full swing, those groups may be looking for more inventory to satisfy buyers’ needs.