A series of incidents that reportedly involved people being kidnapped from the streets near Wrigley Field and robbed over a recent October weekend didn’t play out exactly as the Chicago Police Department said it did, the agency’s director of community policing said during a community Zoom call on Thursday evening.
And CPD Director Glen Brooks seemed to blame “dramatic” media coverage that didn’t get the story right.
Between October 17 and October 20, CPD released four different community alerts about the incidents.
The first bulletin identified three cases where “victims enter the offenders’ vehicle, at which time they are driven to a secondary location and robbed of their personal belongings, including cellphones and wallets.” One of the victims was ordered into the car at gunpoint, the alert said.
The next day, CPD issued another alert that listed a fourth incident, saying that: “[in] each incident, the offender(s) approach the victim from behind, produce a handgun, and order the victim into a waiting vehicle. The offenders drive around in the area with the victim before taking their wallets and cell phones. The victim is then dropped off unharmed.”
The next night, CPD sent out yet another alert, adding a fifth robbery and repeating that all of the victims were forced into cars at gunpoint by offenders who came up from behind.
The department sent the same bulletin to media outlets again the next day.
But during a crime-related Zoom call sponsored by East Lakeview Neighbors on Thursday, police said that’s not quite how it all went down.
“Many of these began as sort of consensual conversations,” Sgt. Aaron Levine told the group. “None of these started out as, like, an aggressive kidnapping where the people were taken off the street. There was a conversation that was struck up.”
Levine said detectives are still working the cases, and Wrigleyville businesses provided a significant amount of video footage to help with the investigation. There have been no further incidents since last month’s spree.
Then, Brooks spoke up.
“Let me add a little bit more context to the safety tips,” Brooks began. He suggested that the victims were impaired and talking with people they didn’t know.
“You’re not as sharp as you were at the beginning of the night,” he said, and he advised viewers to “keep that Spidey-Sense sharp” when talking with people they don’t know.
Brooks pointed to media reports.
“As we do these investigations, we learn more information that is beyond a news report. And a lot of news reports are very dramatic. And what has actually occurred is a little bit different and more nuanced,” he said.
“I want to dispel the belief … that these were stranger danger things which you see in a movie. That’s not the situation that we’re experiencing here.”
CWBChicago was first to report about the crimes. Before our initial report, which included the first two known incidents, a CPD spokesperson told us that both victims were “forced” into a gray sedan at gunpoint. One victim had been walking in the 3500 block of North Clark, and the other was standing in the 1100 block of West Addison, police said.
We sent Brooks an email immediately after his comments to better understand what he meant. After all, it was the police department that repeatedly told the media over the course of a week that the victims were ordered into cars at gunpoint by people who approached them from behind.
He did not immediately respond.