Chicago police issued a warning to downtown Chicago pedestrians after a group of thieves attacked men and women in the city's Streeterville neighborhood three times since Monday,
The attacks happened at all hours of the day, police said, near East Pearson Street and North Dewitt Place. The thieves, possibly as young as 15, were wearing hoodies and likely targeted pedestrians' cellphones.
"It’s certainly a sad situation for the neighborhood,” said Streeterville resident Robert Johnson.
The first attack happened around 10:30 p.m. Monday, police said, when a 59-year-old man was tackled from behind, pushed to the ground and punched in the head. His attacker searched his pockets before fleeing.
About 10 minutes later, a 63-year-old man was also punched in the head, according to police. His attacker got away empty handed.
Then at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, police said a 49-year-old woman was pushed until a man got away with items that fell out of her purse.
Police and the alderman told NBC 5 on Friday that they have strong leads in the case and plenty of surveillance images, but they still warn those in the area to be alert and keep personal belongings hidden at all times.
"We know that these crimes are connected," Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said. "It’s multiple offenders, but they’re in the same vehicle.”
A white Jeep Cherokee may be the getaway vehicle involved in Thursday’s road rage incident on Lake Shore Drive, Hopkins said, "just feet from the attacks."
On Friday undercover police saturated the area around Lake Shore Park.
"We’ve also worked a cooperative agreement with Northwestern University police," Hopkins said. "They’re on patrol as well and have arrest powers.”
This area is no stranger to similar crime sprees. Parking curfews and patrols have been used to curb the crime before.
"We’ve been able to double the police force in Streeterville using university and Chicago police," Hopkins said. "We’re going to get these offenders.”