Sports Authority flash mob robbery caught on surveillance video

November 7, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Sports Authority hopes that by releasing the video they can catch the people behind the flash mob-style robberies.

On Saturday, a group of men walked into the Clark Street Sports Authority near Belmont, and scrambled out with stolen items. The second robbery happened on Monday, at a Sports Authority in south suburban Burbank.

The camera captures about five men walking into the store when seconds later, each of the men attempts to run out with racks of clothing. In this instance, an employee tries to chase them as some of the racks get caught in the doors.

The third incident happened in south suburban Frankfort when several men walk into the store. The robberies last five to 10 seconds at the most. Two of the robberies happened in the middle of the day and one occurred in the evening.

"They are running out to a vehicle, it usually waiting for them, they exit the area as quickly as they can," said Chief John Burica, Frankfort Police Dept.

Frankfort Police are working with Chicago and Burbank police departments to try to catch the thieves. Chief John Burica says it is possible some of the suspects are the same in each of the robberies, or at least work for the same group.

"We are working on one lead right now. Our investigators are trying to follow up on some information and hopefully that will result in us trying to at least locate or identifying the people," said Burica.

Police say they do not know why Sports Authority is targeted. The Colorado-based company released the video in hope of catching the robbers. Sports Authority released a written statement, it reads in part: "At Sports Authority, the comfort and safety of our employees and customers always remain our top priority."

The robbery comes just as stores are gearing up for the busy holiday shopping season. On Thursday night, a business owner who fell victim to a similar type of robbery has advice for his fellow retailers.

It only took seconds for groups of thieves dashing out of Sports Authority stores with armfuls, or even racks full, of clothing. The images are stunning to most, but not to business owner Luke Cho.

"Overwhelming sensation of just not being able to do anything about it," said Luke Cho, Mildblend Supply Company.

Cho owns Mildblend Supply Company, a Wicker Park clothing store where a similar crime happened last year. A surveillance camera captured the brazen theft of thousands of dollars' worth of jeans.

"We had about 15 or 16 kids in the store before I locked the door, and there were actually more waiting to come in," said Cho. "In order for them to get out, they had to unlock the door. So we got pushed around."

The video released by Sports Authority comes during a critical time for retailers.

"These guys are going to do their homework, so it's a problem we're going to face. And I think we're going to be facing more of it as we get closer to the holiday season," said Jody Weis, Eyewitness News Public Safety Expert.

In Cho's case, there were arrests and prosecutions. But even so, he's beefed up security, and suggests others do the same.

"It could be your shop or your neighbor's shop, not just Sports Authority that just happened," said Cho.

No one has been hurt in any of these cases.

The Sports Authority has set up a hotline for anyone with information on the robberies: 1-877-872-6959. The company is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who provides enough detail to make an arrest.

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