Chicago police warn about armed robbers they were ordered to stop chasing; some victims waited hours for CPD to show up

Chicago police issued a community alert Sunday night to warn about a robbery spree that hit the downtown area and West Town on Saturday morning. But the alert doesn’t reveal a couple of important details: Chicago police officers who spotted the robbers’ getaway car were quickly ordered to terminate their pursuit of the suspects, and two of the victims waited up to four hours for cops to respond to their 911 call.

The alert linked four robberies to a pair of men, who first struck in the 200 block of West Erie around 3:30 a.m. A man called 911 to report that he and a friend were robbed at gunpoint. But Chicago police had no units available in the Near North (18th) District, and that call for help sat in a stack of pending “jobs” for four hours and three minutes before a dispatcher finally assigned it to an officer, dispatch records show.

CPD says the same men robbed another man in the 2300 block of West Walnut at 5:20 a.m. That victim reported that a newer white Nissan pulled up, and the passenger got out to rob him at gunpoint while an accomplice stayed in the car.

About 20 minutes later, a Whole Foods employee was robbed outside the 1550 North Kingsbury location, according to a police report. That call would have sat without a response, too, except a 911 call-taker classified it as an “active shooter” incident because they understood that a gunman was inside the store, CPD radio transmissions show.

There was no active shooter, but the urgency of the initial report resulted in cars being mustered up for a response.

One of those units spotted the robbers’ newer white Nissan bearing a stolen license plate heading toward the Ontario feeder ramp in River North around 5:50 a.m. Officers said they engaged the vehicle in a pursuit, but a CPD sergeant ordered them to terminate that effort.

Here’s how it sounded. Note the comments after the termination is given as an officer jokes that someone should call the “real police” at the Illinois State Police, an agency that is known to vigorously chase violent offenders that the Chicago Police Department won’t.

Source: Broadcastify

As it turns out, officers spotted the suspects about a minute after they robbed another victim in the 400 block of West Locust. That victim’s 911 call was not assigned to a car for 66 minutes.

CPD’s alert said the suspects were two Black males between 16 and 20 years old who stood 5’6″ to 5’8″ tall. They wore black facemasks and black hoodies.

Tips about the crimes can be shared with Area Three detectives at 312-744-8263. Refer to crime pattern #P23-3-066.

Waiting for police

At least three other robbery victims also waited hours for police to respond to their calls for help downtown on Saturday morning. They were all tourists staying at hotels in the Loop.

First, two 22-year-old women were outside Miller’s Pub, 134 South Wabash, when they were approached by a group of between eight and ten people around 2 a.m. A police spokesperson said the group physically attacked the victims, striking them in their faces and bodies and causing them to fall to the ground. The group then robbed the women of their valuables and fled.

Chicago police dispatch records show that the local CPD District was in “backlog” status at the time, meaning no police units were available to respond to the victims’ call for help. Nearly two hours after the attack, police met with the victims at their hotel in the Loop.

A CPD spokesperson said another man was attacked in River North between 2 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. He was in the 400 block of North State when five men attacked and robbed him of cash, jewelry, and a phone.

He first called for help from his hotel in the Loop around 4 a.m., but the case was not assigned to an officer for more than three hours. Police eventually met with the man at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he took himself for treatment of his injuries.

Staffing levels in the two Chicago Police Districts that patrol downtown are down sharply from the pre-pandemic era, according to the Chicago Office of Inspector General.

The Central (1st) District, roughly covering the area between the Chicago River, 31st Street, and the lake, had 243 cops on staff last month. That’s essentially flat compared to August last year but down 26% from the 329 it had in August 2019.

North of the river, the Near North (18th) District is also flat compared to 2022 but down about 25% from August 2019, with 291 officers assigned last month versus 389. Near North officers patrol the area between the river, Fullerton, and the lake.

Pursuit averse

Chicago has paid out tens of millions of dollars for lives lost and injuries caused by pursuits that ended with crashes. The police department’s written policy explicitly states that no officer will ever be punished for not chasing a suspect. And CPD supervisors have become so skittish about the possibility of something going wrong they’ve even ordered cops to stop pursuing a car suspected of carrying wanted murderers.

Of course, there’s a trade-off when the city discourages pursuits to save money and reduce the possibility of injury to third parties. That trade-off is that armed, violent people are not apprehended and continue committing crimes.

Last month, a man robbed three convenience stores at gunpoint on the North Side. Chicago police found him as he drove away from the third holdup and followed him for a while. But they terminated their efforts when he struck another car and entered Lake Shore Drive.

CPD officers also saw two different armed robberies in progress last month. They were ordered to stop pursuing one carload of offenders. The officers never initiated a pursuit of the second group.

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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