South Loop muggings were latest crime wave
07/27/2011 10:00 PM
I’ve lived through a number of crime waves since moving to the South Loop 17 years ago.
The first one, early on, was a raft of Weber Grills that were stolen out of our neighborhood backyards. Once, about three in the morning I looked out my window and saw a skinny guy walking really fast down the little path next to my house at Roosevelt and State with a neighbor’s Weber in his arms. Before I realized what was happening, he was gone. What could I have done if I’d had better reflexes, I always wondered. It was creepy that he was in our alley and in one of our yards in the middle of the night.
The night they got mine, it was dinnertime and the burgers hadn’t been off of the Weber for more than five minutes. It was red hot, filled with coals and it had a dirty spatula on the little attached rack. The thief was nice enough to remove the spatula and leave it behind for me to wash.
The thing I could never figure out was how he (or they) got it out of the yard. Did they lift that incredibly hot hunk of steel over the wrought iron fence? And if so, did anyone see them? And how did they carry it, so fiery to the touch? I will never know.
When I called the police, it became apparent that they weren’t going to do anything about my grill. No manhunt. No APB. It was a rude awakening.
I got a bit of a better response several years later when I suffered a couple of broken windows within a couple of years. The first one didn’t actually break through the double pane of glass. The glass on the outside cracked, and the screen broke through in my dining room window; they told me to come to the station to report it. I went in and brought the rock that wound up on the grass under the window.
The second time, a brick flew through the kitchen window — and had my head been in the flight path, I would have been killed. That time the police came out, took a report, looked at the brick and assured me that these sorts of things are random and usually only happen one time and not to worry. (But it already happened once, I thought.)
Next up was a summer spate of garage break-ins. No matter what we did, the perp(s) would strike and strike again — and we just couldn’t catch them. Some neighbors even put out booby traps on the way to their garage doors — and they were better than Macaulay Culkin’s in “Home Alone.” But it did no good.
The cops staked out from a window across Roosevelt, hunkered down upon a deck right in the alley, and watched from dark and unmarked cars on both State and Plymouth. No matter how much watching there was, someone always had a bike — or some such — stolen from their garage the next morning. It still remains a mystery as to who did it. And how they did it undetected under that much surveillance.
In terms of other crime sprees in the South Loop, I learned through the years from CAPS reports of car break-ins during the week of Taste of Chicago. Jewelry missing after home repair visits. Drug sales on nearby corners. South Loop vehicle thefts here and there. Petty thefts out of neighborhood gardens. Shoplifting. And yes, even some honest to goodness burglaries — stealth visitors in the night (and during the day). Some were caught red-handed. Some weren’t.
But it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that actual physical violence popped into the South Loop crime spree equation. (Although there was a tragic and very scary altercation near our South Loop Jewel a while back between two homeless individuals — and a couple returning home after celebrating a birthday at the Wabash Tap — which resulted in the female of the latter couple beaten up and in a coma; but that was an “isolated” occurrence.)
The most recent crime wave in the neighborhood involved three perpetrators. They laid in wait, approaching the victims and knocking them down in order to steal purses, smartphones, etc.
They also had a getaway car. After a few incidences, the victims were able to help police by giving a license plate number, a description of the attackers and their modus operandi. So the alleged three — after a number of attacks over a number of days — were arrested and charged.
The neighborhood could be heard breathing a sigh of relief. Everyone who’d heard about the strong arm robberies couldn’t help but be scared, couldn’t help but feel invaded, violated and terrorized.
Three criminals — who actually turned out to be mopes without very extensive police records — had been on the loose, unafraid to attack on fairly well-populated streets during fairly well-populated times. Not something we’d ever bargained for in the South Loop on streets like South Michigan, South Indiana and South Prairie. For many days, everyone thought twice about walking anywhere in the neighborhood, no matter how small a distance. I know I did.
At a recent CAPS meeting, someone wondered about weapons, whether they’d been used during the spate of attacks. (No. All strong-arm.) And after the meeting, others wondered if the potential jail sentences for the alleged perpetrators would be less because no weapons such as knives, guns, or brickbats were used.
A push and a fall onto the ground can kill you as dead as using a gun, someone pointed out. If you hit your head and get a concussion, the neighbors speculated, or break a bone and get a clot, it would be murder, they agreed.
All I could think is that we’ve come a long way since the stealing of the grills.