Pawn shop sting nets stolen goods

March 25, 2009 5:55:20 PM PDT
Authorities in Evanston conducted an undercover sting operation by setting up a fake pawn shop. They say they recovered more than 100 stolen items and broke up drug sales in the area. Authorities in Evanston conducted an undercover sting operation by setting up a fake pawn shop. They say they recovered more than 100 stolen items and broke up drug sales in the area.

Undercover officers operated the fake pawn shop. The stolen items range from jewelry to mountain bikes.

Twenty-nine people have been arrested.

Evanston, like other North Shore communities, has seen an uptick in property theft from residences and vehicles. The Cook County Sheriff was asked to come in and help Evanston by setting up the sting to get people their items back -- and to make a statement about crime prevention in the near northern suburbs. The sting ran from late October to the end of January.

Operation: Quick Buck took up shop as Leonard's Resale Shop. As seen in a Cook County Sheriff's video, undercover county and municipal police bought items for about 25 percent of their value and paid cash to sellers who provided identification. Material was cross-referenced with lists of stolen items in robbery reports from Evanston, Wilmette, Skokie Waukegan, and other suburbs. Time after time, descriptions of stolen items matched what sellers sought to pawn.

Eventually, police made dozens of arrests, for possession of stolen properly and drug offenses at the strip mall.

Rudolph Crier, for example, faces one felony count for trying to sell a crate of DVDs and counterfeit gym shoes. He has been arrested 85 times.

"By doing this you can get the person, you can lock him up, keep him off the street, and send a message to people that it just isn't you can leave fingerprints at the scene, but the people you might be attempting to sell this stuff too might be cops too, so a lot of it is the deterrent value," said Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff.

Video was piped to several local police forces to help with investigations and keep officers inside safe. Eventually, the shop took in about $10,000 worth of merchandise primarily, police say, from North Shore crime victims.

The sheriff said his strategy was based on helping a community in need, something the Evanston police chief lauded.

"This is not about rich guys who had money, their insurance takes care of this, that is not the problem. The problem is the violation robbery victims feel when their home has been burglarized," said Chief Richard Eddington, Evanston Police.

It's a view shared by some residents in the area.

"There's a lot of burglaries going around here right now and that's not good for the community or society, period. I just hope they catch everybody," said Christopher Henry, Evanston resident.

How good is this evidence against the accused? One man even told the undercover cops he was stealing from his employer.

Starting Wednesday, the items can be viewed both on the web and from 3 - 8 p.m. at the Evanston police headquarters.

The items can be viewed at http://www.cookcountysheriff.com after Thursday, March 26.


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