Chicago businesses eye barricades as crash-and-grab burglary cure

Miles of bollards were installed along the Las Vegas Strip after a woman intentionally drove a car down the famed boulevard’s sidewalk, killing a tourist and injuring dozens of others in 2015. (Google)

By Glenn Minnis

(The Center Square) – With crash-and-grab burglaries across Chicago on the rise over the past year, city officials are now weighing a safety plan calling for the installation of concrete bollards in popular retail corridors.

Over the past year, several high-end stores in the city’s downtown area have been targeted in attacks where thieves used stolen vehicles to smash through a window to gain entry and raid the store. Recently, a Prada outlet on the Gold Coast was raided in a smash-and-grab that ended in a shootout involving two officers and the arrest of a 33-year-old suspect.

Storefront Safety Council cofounder Robert Reiter said it’s time for city officials to become more proactive.

“The city has an obligation to help store owners, and that’s because store owners don’t own the sidewalks,” Reiter told The Center Square. “It’s a little bit different if you’re in a standalone building and you got space in a parking lot but if you’re on the streets, the city controls the sidewalks.”

As the problem has become more pronounced, Reiter said store owners have tried to put up their own barriers, only to be told by city officials that they can’t have the temporary structures or use anything more permanent.

“You can’t just close off the sidewalk for personal use, you’ve got to allow people to be on it,” Reiter added. “It’s important for the city to do two things. One is absolutely give permission to use the sidewalk appropriately to protect stores. Some of these guys have been hit three and four and five times and are just being hung out to dry. The city has got to allow the use of the sidewalk for appropriate barrier measures.”

While installing bollards could cost up to $1,000 each, Reiter said allowing the problem to fester would be even more expensive.

“It kills the city,” he said. “If the problem persists, businesses lose three times. They lose the first time because they pay for the merchandise and it gets stolen. They then have to pay for the replacement merchandise so they can make a living, and they have to pay the insurance at an increased rate because of the theft. How many times can someone get everything stolen from their shop and fix the front door before it’s upside down? The city will have a lot of vacancies, people will lose jobs, and neighborhoods will go dark.”

Reiter added that residents are already paying a heavy price for what he views as the city’s slow response to the problem.

“The city is already experiencing the pain of not doing something because the public perception that people have is crime is high,” he said. “These stores are already being forced to lock everything up. It isn’t just the expensive designer stores. The trendy stores and high-fashion stores start closing down, and people get upset. The quality of life goes down.”

Reiter said he hopes to see city officials quickly establish a clear set of rules for how barriers can be installed and promptly grant clearance to businesses looking to make such changes using the sidewalk.

“I think that businesses in Chicago are going to find enough friendly voices that the city will loosen up and create a fund for people to tap into to buy and install some barriers, and I think the city will loosen up its rule so the people can use the sidewalks to put the barriers in,” he said. “I think the big contribution for the city is going to be setting the standards, clear rules for how things can be installed, and speedy clearance for using the sidewalk.”

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