The burglaries started with gang members using crowbars to smash the windows of stores on tony North Michigan Avenue and elsewhere in the city.
But when businesses boosted their security on the advice of the police, the burglars crashed stolen cars through their doors. The thieves would seize all the loot they could carry and flee in minutes, police say.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Police Department announced charges against four men in connection with the two-year spree. They and other suspects allegedly stole more than $2 million in merchandise and caused more than $500,000 in damage to businesses in Chicago, the suburbs and other cities in the Midwest, police said.
Members of the Gangster Disciples street gang were responsible for the burglaries, authorities said. They gravitated from dealing drugs and ripping off train cars to so-called crash-and-grabs, police said.
Police Cmdr. Eugene Roy said more than 40 heists have been attributed to the crew. The crash-and-grab incidents began in early 2014 and usually involved suspects wearing masks and gloves to obscure their identities.
But police obtained key forensic evidence from the Neiman Marcus at 737 N. Michigan after a stolen van crashed into the store on Dec. 10 and thieves made off with luxury goods, Roy said. He wouldn’t provide details on what kind of evidence was recovered.
Police have been unable to recover most of the items stolen in the burglaries, Roy said. The crew was selling the goods for discounts of more than 50 percent, he said.
The four charged in the string of high-profile burglaries include Kenneth C. Greene, 23, of the 5600 block of South Emerald; Hershel Phillips, 18, of the 5800 block of South Peoria; and Jawon Sellers, 24, and Tommie Adams, 22, both of the 10100 block of South La Salle. Warrants have been issued for other suspects, police said.
Other crash-and-grabs attributed to the crew include the Sept. 15 burglary of a Moncler boutique at 33 East Oak Street in the Gold Coast and the Nov. 26 burglary of a Cisco Nyc store in the 4000 block of West Madison, police said.
Asked why the crew allegedly gravitated to targeting stores, Roy said: “Doing burglaries is a lot easier than standing out on the corner selling drugs 12 hours a day.”