Seven businesses were targeted by thieves over the weekend. Chicago police are investigating a string of burglaries spanning a 20-mile stretch from March 31 to April 2.
Police said the offenders are seen arriving in the early morning hours at closed businesses in a White Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk without a license plate. They pry open the business doors, or smash glass, and damage or steal ATMs.
Pork Chop in West Town is now without an ATM and plywood covers the front door.
“It’s bolted down. I have no idea how they did that,” said restaurant owner Jovanis Bouargouv.
“I have been in Chicago 20 years now, and I have never seen [crime] as bad as this,” he said.
The theft at Pork Chop happened around 4:30 a.m. on April 2, likely only minutes before early morning food prep workers were set to arrive. Bouargouv is grateful no one was hurt.
“Money is always replaceable. A life is not,” Bouargouv said.
One day prior, possibly the same suspects used a crow bar to smash the glass and break through a metal security barrier at high-end shoe store, Flee Club, on West Taylor Street.
Co-owner Sabrian Sledge estimates their losses at $70,000.
“Just like a devastating feeling because you work so hard being your own business,” said Sledge. “It makes us question being where we’re from.”
This was the fifth break-in at the shoe store in two years and the second in less than a month.
“Insurance actually dropped us because it’s a high risk at this point,” said Sledge.
At a news conference Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown said violent crime is down so far in 2022.
However, according to city data analyzed by NBC 5 Investigates, retail theft is up 50% in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same time last year.
The mayor and superintendent announced a new plan to tackle crime Monday relying heavily on security cameras. Officials are asking home and business owners to register existing cameras with the city and offering a rebate program for those who’d like to purchase the equipment.
“Signing up may be the difference between offenders walking free or being held accountable,” said Superintendent David Brown.
Sledge said cameras were ineffective at deterring criminals in any of the five incidents at his store.
“I don’t know how much security you can have,” he said. “It’s just the same cycle. It’s very frustrating.”
The store will remain closed for the time being, and thee owners are considering whether it may be permanent.
Pork Chop has reopened but is still waiting on insurance to replace the ATM and repair the windows.
“We can’t afford to close,” said Bouargouv. “We are trying to survive but it’s getting harder and harder.”
Chicago police said there have been no arrests in any of the incidents but detectives continue to investigate.
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