Chicago police warn of robber targeting women

March 1, 2012 2:19:37 PM PST
A warning to residents on Chicago's Northwest Side: Eight women have been attacked in a series of strong-arm robberies.

Most of the crimes happened within five blocks of each other. The latest was Tuesday in the 5400-block of West School.

It is primarily happening along Belmont Avenue and the surrounding residential streets. There have been eight situations where, Chicago Police say, a lone white or Hispanic male, 20-35 years old, 5'8" to 6' tall, wearing a black hoodie comes up behind on unsuspecting women and robs them of their purses, wallets and cell phones.

"For this area it's very unusual," said Sgt. John Gargul, Chicago Police Department Area 5. "Usually, you don't have that happening up there in that location of Belmont and Long, Belmont and Laramie, and Belmont and Austin."

The Chicago Police Department Wednesday put out a community alert asking people to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals or activity on these quiet streets which feature a large Polish population.

"It's not too surprising," said resident Angie Trombell. "There's a lot of gangbangers around here, but, I mean, I don't walk around at night."

Victims are usually targeted in the late afternoon or early evening, along sidewalks and in alleys.

Neighbors say area residents are worried.

"People that have been here for 30, 40, 50 years haven't had to really have be as concerned about the robberies or the break-ins, so it's just kind of escalated the last couple years. It's gotten a lot worse," said resident Tim Townsend.

"We have to have concern and be watchful, know who's around and who shouldn't be around, and kind of keep eyes on your neighbors," said landscaper Stephen Huff.

Mitch Frazier, another landscaper who repairs small engines and equipment for his buddy Townsend, says even though there is gang activity in the area, it is critical to not be intimidated.

"They just want lawn and snow equipment. They don't want to start fights or murder some people," said resident Mitch Frazier. "Don't get scared."

That view is in accord with what the police say is the way to handle the situation.

"We had a couple of female victims that got up and started chasing the offender," said Gargul. "We're gonna get this guy. It's just a matter of time."

Police have nobody in custody but say video surveillance has been obtained that will help their investigation.