CHICAGO (CBS) — Customers were pushed and shoved this week as a group of thieves ransacked the Burberry store on the Magnificent Mile – in the latest hit in a number of similar mass-thefts at high-end Chicago stores.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina asked Tuesday how the crime is affecting the holiday shopping season.
That shopping season is now in full swing. The Magnificent Mile decked out and lit up for the season, and so are the city’s other prime retail districts – with garland, holly, and festive lights.
The concern is that the retailers on Michigan Avenue and elsewhere will not see the same crowds they have in years past – because of these continued crimes.
You may have seen this recent video from the Oakbrook Center Mall.
Fourteen people stormed into the Louis Vuitton store and grabbed everything they could – knocking over chairs and shoving mannequins askew in the process.
Days before, a crew hit another Louis Vuitton at the Northbrook Court Mall. They stole more than $100,000 in merchandise.
Those incidents happened in the suburbs rather than Chicago, but the videos do give a rare look at how such organized retail theft rings operate.
More recently within the city, four masked men ran through the front door of the Burberry store at 633 N. Michigan Ave. They grabbed handbags worth tens of thousands of dollars, and Chicago Police told us they also shoved a 23-year-old woman and hit a 66-year-old man standing at the door.
The man and woman are OK, but the thieves got away.
This in turn follows a posted warning from Chicago Police about a number of other nearby robberies, where organized groups are breaking glass to steal whatever they can get their hands on when the stores were closed.
One theft and one attempted theft also happened on the Magnificent Mile – at stores in the 800 block of North Michigan Avenue. Police would not specify which stores were involved, but they did say in one incident at 4:29 a.m. Thanksgiving Monday, some thieves broke a window and took merchandise and sped off in a sport-utility vehicle. In another incident at 4:29 a.m. Sunday, some would-be thieves tried to break into a store on the same block, but drove off in a white sedan after they couldn’t get in.
There was also a smash-and-grab theft at 4:35 a.m. Monday, Nov. 15, in the 1800 block of North Clybourn Avenue along the fashionable Clybourn Corridor. In that incident, the suspects succeeded in breaking a window and taking merchandise.
“We don’t want to be become the headlines, like San Francisco,” said Rob Karr, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, “but we’re pushing in that direction.”
In San Francisco and nearby Bay Area communities, organized theft rings forced officials to change traffic patterns around high-end stores.
KPIX-TV, CBS 5 San Francisco reported a week ago Friday, the Louis Vuitton store and several other stores in Union Square in San Francisco were targeted for grab-and-run thefts. Days later, windows were boarded up and there was a pronounced increase in police presence – and nervous shoppers.
Thieves also stormed into stores for grab-and-run thefts in nearby communities such as Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Hayward, and San Jose.
Could something similar be seen in Chicago?
“I think that concern us very present – that it’s going to impact the shopping seasons,” Karr said. “It impedes encouraging people to come downtown. It impedes tourism growth, and it is not a victimless crime.”
We asked the Magnificent Mile Association what they’re hearing from stores about these thefts and bolstering security. They had no comment.
But Karr told us when it comes to security, some downtown are having a hard time keeping their numbers – up and they’re hearing about it.
“Security firms are facing the same sort of hiring pressures that every sector of the economy is facing,” he said.
Chicago Police tell us they don’t have anyone in custody in these latest incidents, and they are still investigating them all.