Teen charged in Metra station robberies

August 13, 2009 (CHICAGO) Lee Mintz has been charged with five counts of armed robbery. Police are still looking for a second suspect.

While the investigation continues, residents and community leaders are encouraged by the arrest. Many are grateful for efforts to find the offender, but some feel the incidents show there is room to improve the relationship between police and the South Side community in the Avalon and Chatham neighborhoods.

Commuters in the area had been leery around Metra stops before police announced an arrest Thursday.

"All of us are ecstatic that you have caught--that criminals have been caught . Metra riders will free safer and the community at large will feel safer," Maryellen Drake, of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, said.

There were six robberies at or near Metra stations at the 83rd and 95th Street Stations in the last three weeks.

A 69-year-old man who says he had his rent money stolen was among the victims. The robberies had unnerved many in the community.

"They really traumatized the community. In some of the robberies people were held at gunpoint, and you can imagine how people were shaken and taken back, especially when we're used to going about our normal business" Melinda Kelly, of the Chatham Business Association, said.

Some in the community were frustrated by what they say was a lack of attention to the robberies.

"Once the media got involved, the police got involved," WVON Disk Jockey Matt McGill said.

He was among those calling for action from the police to help solve these crimes.

"When you're proactive and you say we're not going to tolerate this, then you will get an arrest. And you will get the police department on their toes and responding to your community," McGill said.

Police Superintendent Jody Weis Thursday addressed allegations of disparity and attention to robberies on the South Side, compared to crimes on the North Side.

"We put our police officers where we believe the crime is. And in some neighborhoods, unfortunately, this type of criminal activity is not uncommon, and that's something that we got to work on as a whole city," Weis said.

"Initially, there was not enough attention. But eventually, more attention was pushed out via the radio and the media network," Drake said.

Metra police offered an important link in this investigation in providing surveillance video that allegedly identified the suspects.

Police are still looking for the other offender, but the arrest provides relief and reassurances for many that the police are on this case.

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