‘Continuous crime spree.’ Man accused of heading smash-and-grab burglary ring that tossed cash registers on governor’s street between heists on North Side and Mag Mile

Tacarre Harper, 27, was free on bond at the time of his arrest and had four outstanding warrants, prosecutors said. He was held without bail in the other pending cases.

SHARE ‘Continuous crime spree.’ Man accused of heading smash-and-grab burglary ring that tossed cash registers on governor’s street between heists on North Side and Mag Mile
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The Burberry store at 633 N. Michigan Ave.

AP photo/Burberry

He was arrested with just $5 in his pocket, but police say Tacarre Harper headed a crew that made off with $175,000 in merchandise in at least nine smash-and-grab burglaries in recent months, even tossing cash registers on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Gold Coast street between heists.

Harper, 27, from South Austin, faces nine felony counts of burglary for overnight thefts that stretched from last November to last month.

Described by a police source as the “ringleader” of the crew, Harper is suspected in dozens of other burglaries in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, targeting liquor, electronics and clothing stores, a police memo states.

At the time of his arrest Monday, Harper was free on bond and had four outstanding warrants, Cook County prosecutors said during his court hearing. He was ordered held without bail in those four cases, plus $200,000 for the latest case.

While pressing for a significant bond in the new case, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis said Harper’s alleged actions constituted “one continuous crime spree,” and that he and the others “wreaked havoc across the community.”

Kalliantasis said Harper and others broke into stores — at times using bricks to smash windows — and made off with cash and merchandise. The total estimated loss was $175,000, according to the police memo.

Much of that — $150,000 — came from two burglaries at the high-end Burberry store on the Magnificent Mile on Jan. 4 and Jan. 6, officials said. In both instances, Harper and his team pulled on the door until it popped open and stole pricy clothing and accessories.

Shortly before the second burglary at Burberry, prosecutors said the crew hit two Lake View markets before winding up on Pritzker’s block, where a private surveillance camera caught four of them dumping cash registers and other items.

Facebook videos unearthed by the police department’s social media team showed Harper driving a Dodge Ram, prosecutors said. A search warrant revealed that his phone was present at Burberry at the time of the burglary.

“He’s easilyidentified on video in various locations, putting him on the scene,” Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown said during a news conference Tuesday evening.

Officials said the crew had previously hit convenience and liquor stores, as well as a Game Stop in North Austin. Another person described as a “co-offender” was previously arrested and merchandise was recovered and returned to Burberry, according to the police memo.

That suspect has been charged in other burglaries, but not any at Burberry.

Harper was taken into custody after Chicago police officers, working with U.S. marshals and the Great Lakes Regional Task Force, identified a Hyundai Genesis while doing surveillance in the 600 block of North Leclaire, the police report states. He fled but was eventually arrested with just $5 on him.

Harper admitted to some of the burglaries, according to prosecutors, who said he even fingered himself in photos taken from surveillance videos and showed investigators photos of stolen Burberry purses on his cellphone.

Detectives are continuing their investigation, Brown said. “He’s the ringleader but he’s not the only one.”

Cook County court records show Harper has an extensive criminal history, and prosecutors noted he was sought on four separate warrants.

One was signed last month when Harper failed to appear for a hearing in a 2021 burglary case out of Chicago, court records show. He also has a pending gun case from later that year for which he was on bond, as well as pending robbery and identity theft charges from 2019.

In addition, prosecutors said he was wanted on a warrant out of Lake County in a felony fleeing an eluding case.

Harper was most recently given a one-day sentence for a 2019 retail theft charge from Melrose Park, court records show. And in 2016, he was charged with criminal trespass and given a two-day sentence.

He also pleaded guilty in 2014 to aggravated battery, getting a two-year prison sentence. A year earlier, he was sentenced to another year in prison and probation in separate drug cases.

Jeremy Lemmons, Harper’s public defender, described his client as a working father of three young children who lives with his mother, goes to church and has been diagnosed with unspecified mental health conditions and “physical ailments.”

Lemmons claimed Harper has no history of violence while requesting a “reasonable” bond amount.

Judge Mary Marubio, however, noted that aggravated battery is a violent offense. She also pointed to the warrants and recent bond violation before giving Harper a cash bail of $200,000 — roughly the “full amount of lost proceeds.”

Harper is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday in the prior cases, then on Feb. 16 on the new charges.

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