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.”