Tag Archives: crime

SMASH-AND-GRAB

A crime common in the 1930’s and 1940’s has returned with a new twist. Instead of an individual breaking through a store-front window to grab jewelry or other valuables out of the shop’s display, groups of thieves now are using cars and pick-up trucks to crash into shops. It’s a carefully orchestrated crime known as smash-and-grab.

These are not random acts of theft. High-end merchandise, especially designer handbags and clothing, is targeted. Think of Louis Vuitton handbags costing $2,000 to $6,000 and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes ranging from $300 to $700. Think of Giuseppe shoes for $1,000 a pair. Think of merchandise at GameStop.

Why do the thieves steal the high-end merchandise and ignore the inexpensive items? Robert Lombardo, associate professor of criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, said thieves steal high-end merchandise because “that’s the stuff people want.” He explained that local thieves may attempt to sell the merchandise in the neighborhood. The merchandise stolen by professional criminals may be “bound for resale in other markets.”

Generally, the thieves target stores on streets rather than in malls. Wearing masks and gloves, the burglars drive a car or a van or a pick-up truck through the store’s front door or glass window. Then the thieves quickly grab as much high-end merchandise as they can carry, and they rush out the door. On November 26, 2014, the actions of one group of thieves were caught on a surveillance video in the store.

On April 17, 2018, a team of smash-and-grab thieves drove a stolen vehicle through the entrance of a GameStop in the 1500 block of North Cicero in the North Austin area of Chicago. The burglars stole cash and merchandise and then fled the scene. They left the stolen car embedded in the entrance of the store.

Stores in malls are not immune to smash-and-grab burglaries. On November 18, 2014, burglars drove through the outside entrance of the Northbrook Court mall and through a corridor before slamming into the Louis Vuitton store. The burglars were dressed in black pants and black hooded sweatshirts. They wore gloves and either ski masks or surgical masks.

A video surveillance system recorded the action as burglars with sledgehammers broke a hole in the glass, and the thieves climbed through the hole one after another to get into the store. They quickly gathered purses and bags from the shelves and from behind the counter, and then they ran into the mall.

A similar smash-and-grab burglary occurred September 7, 2014 at the Louis Vuitton store at the Oakbrook Center mall. Thieves rammed a minivan into the store and stole about $120,000 worth of merchandise. On November 4, 2014, a smash-and-grab occurred at the Chicago Premium Outlet Mall in Aurora. A minivan rammed through the front window of Salvatore Ferragamo. The burglars stole $40,000 worth of purses and luggage.

—By Karen Centowski


To see the surveillance video of a smash-and-grab in Chicago, go to the November 27, 2014 Chicago Tribune article, “Crash-and-grab burglars hitting high-end stores in suburbs and Chicago.”

CARJACKINGS SKYROCKET IN CHICAGO

If you live in Chicago or the collar counties, you are probably accustomed to the huge number of shootings or homicides that occur in the city. Now another crime, carjacking, has surged to its highest numbers in at least ten years, according to a Chicago Tribune article printed December 29, 2017.

Although the vast number of shootings and homicides tended to be concentrated on the South and West sides, carjacking occurred throughout the city, often in trendy neighborhoods and downtown. Among the 967 victims of carjacking in Chicago in 2017 were ordinary citizens, an off-duty police officer, and a Lyft driver.

What is carjacking? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the theft of an automobile from its driver by force or intimidation.” The word “carjacking” is actually a combination of car + hijack + ing. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1991.

Thieves often use force, threatening the drivers with a gun or knife, to rob their victims of their money and their vehicles. Sometimes the thieves then use the vehicles in drive-by shootings, smash-and-grab burglaries, and other crimes. Sometimes they might just go for a joy ride in the car and abandon it on a city street.

What methods do criminals use to steal the cars? One method is called “bump-and-run.” The criminals intentionally drive their car into the rear of the victim’s car. When the driver gets out of his car to survey the damage and exchange insurance information, the criminals threaten the victim with a weapon, jump into the car, and drive away.

Darren Reboletti, a Lyft driver, was dropping off his Lyft passenger around 1:30 A.M. on December 20, 2017 on the South Side of Chicago when he felt another car bump into his brand-new Jeep Cherokee from behind. When he got out to check the damage, someone from the other car jumped into his Jeep. Reboletti tried to pull the thief out of the Jeep, but the thief kicked him, swore at him, and threatened to kill him. Reboletti backed off, and the thief drove away in his 2017 Jeep. The second vehicle, a blue Ford Exposition, also fled.

Another method is distraction. The criminals place a $20.00 bill under the windshield wiper of a parked car. When the driver gets out to retrieve the $20.00 bill, the thieves jump into the car and drive away.

A third method is armed robbery. On December 18, 2017, an off-duty Chicago police officer was sitting in his personal car two blocks from police department headquarters on the South Side. Two men approached the officer’s car. One man tapped on the passenger’s side window to distract the officer. The other man, Carlos Hendricks, age 18, went to the driver’s side, pulled a gun, and demanded the car. According to the Chicago Tribune article “Police: Charges filed against man shot while carjacking off-duty Chicago cop near headquarters,” the officer fired one shot and hit Hendricks in the abdomen. Hendricks was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The other suspect ran away and remained at large as of December 19. A gun belonging to Hendricks was recovered from the scene.

—By Karen Centowski