Authorities are warning area residents after a man has used a popular smartphone app to lure victims, then rob them at gunpoint multiple times.
Police say a user on OfferUp has used the the popular buy-and-sell app to coordinate a meet-up, but then rob the victim at gunpoint, five times over the last two weeks. The robberies have all occurred in the Gresham or Grand Crossing neighbrohoods on Chicago's South Side.
"It's a tragedy for someone to sit there and try to take advantage of someone like that," said Gresham resident Phillip Piggie. "I hope this comes to justice, where they find this person because sitting up there and taking advantage of someone like that is not acceptable. you're sitting up here misguiding, misleading someone."
The app OfferUp is often used to connect people selling a wide range of items, from appliances to electronics, with people looking to purchase them. The sellers are matched to bidders who make an offer, then the two meet up in person to make the deal.
The first incident happened on the 7700 block of S Green St on April 27, on a block right behind a police station. On April 28, it happened again on Eberhart St in Grand Crossing. Police say the following week, it happened three times on the 7600 and 7700 blocks of S Peoria, steps away from Ogelsby Elementary School.
"In this community, you never know what might happen to you. So you have to be pretty cautious and very safe around here," Oglesby parent Ms. Hall said. "I just think everybody around here that has kids, that you need to meet your kids, pick them up, with a cell phone at all times, so they can be safe."
"Providing a trusted experience for our users is a primary focus for OfferUp and we do not tolerate criminal activity," a spokesperson for OfferUp said in a statement. "We are offering assistance to the Chicago Police Department for its investigation."
Police are reminding everyone to take basic precautions when meeting up with someone you met online, and that users of OfferUp or any similar apps or websites should do meet-ups in safe, public locations, and if possible, bring a friend.
Police have released only a vague description of the suspect, and OfferUp declined to go into detail about how they're helping detectives, or if they're able to zero in on the subscriber that used the app in this way. Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to contact Area South detectives.