The call that came over the police radio Monday morning was startling if familiar: Two men in a stolen car committing robberies at gunpoint across Chicago’s South Side. Within minutes, robbers held up employees at two discount stores and stole wallets and other belongings from pedestrians on the street. All of the victims described having guns pointed in their faces. One was knocked to the ground. This time, police quickly caught a 25-year-old suspect after an alert witness saw two men matching the robbers’ description running from a stolen Kia with bags in their hands, reports the Chicago Tribune. In the days before and after those robberies, waves of other stickups were happening around the city. Victims included a driver accosted by rifle-toting teens as he was unloading his car, a woman carjacked at gunpoint in a park, students walking near DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus and a bar worker mugged after leaving work in the West Loop.
While armed robberies are nothing new in Chicago, a disturbing new pattern has emerged in recent months where crews of robbers — many of them juveniles — toting high-powered weapons go on crime sprees, robbing or carjacking multiple victims in minutes, often using stolen cars and dressed head to toe in black. They seem to be constantly one step ahead of authorities. Before police can respond to one scene, more have popped up, leaving dozens upon dozens of victims in their wake. The vast majority of the robberies have gone unsolved, producing a series of negative headlines for Mayor Brandon Johnson and his new police Superintendent Larry Snelling, even as homicides and some other violent crime metrics are dropping. The sheer volume of robberies has left aldermen frustrated and many residents of frequently targeted neighborhoods frightened. At a community meeting Monday evening in Humboldt Park, local leaders, anti-violence workers and police officials attempted to address area residents’ safety concerns and more fully explain the challenges. “I think everyone is so freaked out, who’s lived in this area for a long time, because of the random and brazen nature of what’s happening right now,” said Rod O'Connor, who has lived in the area for two decades.