Police departments in numerous local communities, including Chicago, are working to combat a string of brazen grab-and-run thefts from departments stores and high-end retail locations, some of which were caught on video.
Some of the robberies have occurred right in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, including the Burberry flagship store on Michigan Avenue.
In that theft, four thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of designer purses and other items late Monday afternoon. During the theft, a 23-year-old employee and a 66-year-old shopper suffered minor injuries, and none of the suspects were caught before they left the store.
Ald. Brian Hopkins of Chicago’s second ward says that officials are working hard to identify suspects, and say that some of the individuals involved in the thefts are actually part of organized efforts that essentially “take orders” before making their move.
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“People at the top are making significant sums of money by targeting this high end merch, and they have orders where they know they can sell it before they even steal it,” he said.
Chicago stores aren’t the only ones experiencing the challenges of the mass thefts. Several suburban stores have also been hit, including the Louis Vuitton store at Oakbrook Center, where 14 people stormed into the store and stole items before fleeing in three waiting vehicles.
Northbrook police have stepped up their patrols in the area after a similar theft at a Louis Vuitton location there, and store owners are also responding, changing out displays and trying to make it more difficult for thieves to access merchandise.
Hopkins says that he has gotten complaints from Chicago retailers that inventory shrinkage is rapidly climbing because of increased thefts.
“Employees are stealing merchandise too, because they see how easy it is,” he said. “Stores aren’t enforcing their rules, and we’re hearing stories of employees conducting inside jobs.”
Hopkins says that some stores have been hesitant to consider options like door buzzers, locks and window shades, saying it promotes an almost-militarized image, but says that increased efforts to control merchandise are necessary.
“Most of the employers have told their staffs to stand down and not take the risk, to let it go,” he said. “The problem is thieves know this too, so they’re acting with impunity.”
Part of the solution to that issue, Hopkins says, is to have increased patrols by police, and he believes that those extra officers in downtown have had an impact so far this holiday season, simply by being present.
“Known looters in vehicles, we’ve been tracking who were circling the Michigan Avenue district and after time, seeing a visible, strong police presence, they just left,” he said.
Chicago officials are hoping that the extra security and extra measures by stores will help to keep shoppers safe during the holiday season, especially with more visitors coming into the city from out of town because of progress made in the fight against coronavirus.