Surge of Chicago carjackings include 2 thefts in broad daylight on North Side

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Police are investigating a surge in carjackings in Chicago, which began over the weekend and continued into Monday with two broad daylight thefts on the city's North Side.

In the latest incident in Goose Island, police said the victim was pumping gas in the 1200-block of North Halsted Street when, just before 4 p.m., the suspect jumped into his black Ford SUV and fled the scene.

Surveillance video shows the offender walking up while the driver has his back turned, pumping gas with the engine running, and climbing into the vehicle. He puts it in drive and takes off, ripping the nozzle and the hose out of the pump.

The victim, obviously stunned, decided to give chase. The thief pulled out of the gas station, and as he turned left into traffic the victim ran alongside the car. But soon the suspect and the vehicle were gone and fellow drivers were left shaking their heads.

"A gas station is typically well-lit, lots of people here, so for that thing to happen, it's pretty brazen," said driver Assad Hussein.

The video shows the thief as part of a group of teens working together; one steals the car as the others stand watch.

Half an hour earlier, at about 3:30 p.m. in Streeterville, police said a Lyft driver was placing bags in the trunk of his car while picking up a fare in the 600-block of North St. Clair Street when a man jumped into his white Jeep Cherokee and drove off.

Police described the suspect as a black male who is approximately 20 years old.

Three overnight armed carjackings, which occurred in a four-hour period, have all been linked to the same men, who appeared to go back and forth between Cicero and the city's West and Northwest sides overnight, alternately relieving people of their vehicles and then using those stolen cars to commit other crimes.

Police said in the final overnight incident, three armed male suspects in a white Dodge Charger approached the victim and stole his vehicle near a gas station at Damen Avenue and Augusta Street in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood around 4:45 a.m.

"I was coming down Augusta, at the stop sign at Wolcott this car right here they used to block me off. All three of them jump out with guns, two on the driver's side, one on the passenger. Told me to get out of the car. I looked at the guns, 'You can have this damn car,'" said carjacking victim Steve Thomas.

A few hours earlier at about 2:59 a.m., three male suspects approached a victim and stole his black sedan at gunpoint in the 400-block of North Aberdeen Street in the Near West Side neighborhood.

A few minutes earlier at about 2:50 a.m., three male suspects carjacked two men and a woman in the 2500-block of West Wellington Avenue in the Avondale neighborhood. They ordered the victims out of their Toyota Camry and took their personal belongings before fleeing in the Camry south on Rockwell Street.

No injuries have been reported in the carjackings and no one is in custody. Chicago Police Chief Fred Waller said they are mostly crimes of opportunity.

"We believe it was the same group of individuals committing these offenses and using these cars that they've taken from people to commit subsequent robberies. We have good descriptions and information to run off at this early hour and again, we believe these are connected to a larger pattern in which detectives have been able to make significant progress," said Waller said.

Chicago police said four people were arrested for carjackings over the weekend. Carjackings have been a growing problem in Chicago. Back in August, the city formed a special task force to deal with the incidents.

The Chicago carjackings could be connected to several attempted carjackings and robberies in west suburban Cicero Monday morning. A spokesman for the Town of Cicero said that four suspects were involved in an attempted carjacking at 21st Street and 58th Court at 1:24 a.m. The suspects, who were wearing surgical masks, then fled into Berwyn and Chicago.

At about 5 a.m., the spokesman said the suspects, driving a white Dodge Charger with a stripe across the top, were involved in another attempted carjacking in the 1400-block of South 61st Avenue. Minutes later, they robbed a female victim of her cell phone in the 1800-block of South 61st Avenue.

The four suspects then robbed a woman of her purse at gunpoint in the 2300-block of South 58th Court, the spokesman said. The suspects then confronted a male victim in the 2600-block of South 59th Avenue at about 5:27 a.m. and stole his wallet, and car keys at gunpoint. Minutes later, a couple was robbed in the 2700-block of South 59th Avenue, with the suspects stealing a wallet, cell phone and purse.

"I think twice they tried to carjack cars in Cicero. And then when that didn't work they just started pulling over and at gunpoint would rob people. Cell phones. Purses. Wallets. Individuals and one couple. So there were four instances of robberies," said Ray Hanania, spokesperson for the City of Cicero.

No arrests have been made in either of Sunday's or Monday morning's carjackings. While police don't believe there's a ring of carjackers at work, they said they would not be surprised if several of the criminals involved do know each other. In the meantime, police are reminding residents to make sure their cars are locked when they leave them, even for a moment.
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