Chicago police issued a warning for bicyclists Sunday after several West Side riders were robbed at gunpoint and forced to give up their bikes, money and other valuables.
Riding a bike is a popular way to get around in the summer, but residents in the areas surrounding Garfield Park say at night it can be dangerous. With good weather and clear side streets, Art Gomez says he likes using his bike to get to work, but is now having second thoughts after a string of thefts in the Lawndale neighborhood.
“I ride through here a lot actually,” Gomez said. “This is new to me, I [had] never heard about bike thefts around here.”
Chicago Police say at least three armed robberies were reported between Aug. 3 and 4, all of which happened at night.
The first rider was targeted at about 8 p.m. in the 3700 block of West Lexington Avenue between West Garfield Park and North Lawndale. The second, around 11:30 p.m. in Humboldt Park's 1100 block of North Homan. The third, in the 3600 block of West Thomas Avenue at about 7:45 p.m.
Police think a group of teenagers are to blame, and describe the thieves as boys ages 12 to 19 who approach the bikers sometimes in groups of two or five. The suspects then flash a handgun and threaten their victims to not only give up their bike, but also their wallet or phone.
Zennan Owens, a local football coach running practices near where the crimes were reported in Garfield Park, says kids with nothing to do in the summer too often end up in trouble.
“It’s getting hard for the kids these days,” Owens said. “We need to find a way to find something that the kids can do in order to get them involved in things.”
Chicago Police Officer Veejay Zala told NBC Chicago they need the residents' help to catch the thieves.
“We want to try to catch these guys,” officer Zala said. “And the best way to do that is to partner with the community, get information from them [such as] physical descriptions.”
Police ask anyone with information to contact Area North detectives at (312) 744-8263.