Single robbery crew suspected of nearly 20 armed attacks a day in Chicago

City robberies have increased by 15% from 2021, and thefts are up 59%.

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Ivette Otero and Mario Flores, who work in a Humboldt Park cafe, said they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood that has been a target of armed robbers.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

A single crew has been committing about 20 armed robberies a day across the city, a law enforcement source told the Sun-Times Tuesday after police released a lengthy list of recent holdups.

Chicago police have been tracking “a certain pattern” in the string of attacks this month, the source said. On Monday, the department issued a community alert reporting 50 armed robberies between last Wednesday and Saturday that were clustered in Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village, West Town, Lakeview, Edgewater and West Ridge.

The robbers typically use a Kia or a Hyundai — cars that can easily be stolen using a basic USB cable, the source said. They’re always masked.

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Though a handful of suspects have been taken into custody, the source said new crew members have simply been brought in to replace them. The source likened the operation to a “multiple-headed monster.”

And while the crew members generally hail from the same part of the city, the source said their alliance “transcends gang affiliations.”

The source connected the crew to a shooting in Austin earlier this month when a concealed carry license holder shot three robbers — an 18-year-old man and two boys, 15 and 16. 

Robberies have increased by 15% across the city from last year, according to police data. Thefts are up 59%.

Of the areas hit last week, the 25th Police District on the Northwest Side has seen the largest increase in robberies this year, 34%, from 282 last year at this time to 373 this year.

  • On Saturday, 18 robberies were reported between midnight and 4 a.m., mainly in Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village and West Town. Others occurred Saturday morning from the Near North Side to Lakeview, Edgewater and West Ridge.
  • Friday saw just one reported robbery — about 11:20 p.m. in the 1400 block of North Sandburg Terrace on the Near North Side, according to police.
  • On Dec. 8, a group of gunmen pulled off 16 robberies between 12:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., all on the West Side, most of them in Humboldt Park. Six of the attacks happened between 5:15 a.m. and 5:38 a.m., according to police.
  • Another 15 robberies were reported Dec. 7, primarily on the West Side. Twelve of them occurred between 4:15 a.m. and 6:40 a.m., police said.

Ivette Otero, who works at La Sandwichera Cafe, blocks from one of the robberies in Humboldt Park, said she is afraid when coming to the restaurant. She carries pepper spray and a knife with her.

“Especially me as a female, I don’t feel safe,” said Otero, 59. She arrives for work around 5 a.m. and has to park a few blocks away. “I have to park in a secluded area, a street with hardly no lights and make myself make it here,” she said.

Her co-worker, 26-year-old Mario Flores, echoed her feelings but for different reasons. “As a young Hispanic male, I don’t feel safe. It’s just dangerous and anything can happen,” said Flores.

Otero has lived in Humboldt Park for 18 years and has worked at the restaurant for five. She said the crime in the area has gotten worse in recent years, placing part of the blame on the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody just went crazy, they lost the feeling to go to work, to find a job, to go to school,” Otero said. “They lost reason for living, they don’t care.”

Otero said she was grateful that she and Mario were closing the restaurant together on Tuesday. “I guess we have to walk around in pairs. Two is better than one.”

Otero wasn’t sure what it would take to make her feel safe, saying those who are committing crimes need to take responsibility. “God help us. It’s up to them, there’s better things than turning around and hurting other people.”

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