Robberies surprise longtime Lincoln Square retailers

  • Chicago Police squad cars at Belmont area station.
Chicago Police squad cars at Belmont area station. (E. Jason Wambsgans/ Chicago…)
March 25, 2013|Rachel Cromidas, @rachelcromidas | RedEye

Two violent, daytime store robberies in the past week have some Lincoln Square retailers rethinking their security procedures.

Chicago Area North police issued a community alert about the incidents, which both took place when just one employee was present at the North Side retail stores.

In both cases, a man punched the store employees after taking money from their registers, according to the police alert.

The man who targetted Soggy Paws’s SP2 pet supply store on Leland Avenue on Thursday afternoon didn’t dip into the array of sqeaky dog toys or cat grooming tools lining the store’s walls. But he did take about eighty dollars from the register, employees said, and then punched and kicked the employee.

Emily Frank, a store employee who did not witness the robbery, but went to the store on Thursday to help shortly after the robbery, said the attack, which sent her coworker to the hospital, concerns her more than the stolen money.

“If it hadn’t been for the assault, it would have been eighty bucks,” she said. “Really, the thing we’re angry about is that he hurt someone, which is totally unnecessary.”

Frank, 29, said she sometimes brings her dog to the store with her for protection, but knows in the future that more precautions would be necessary. For example, she said the three other Soggy Paws outlets in Chicago have fully-recorded cameras and panic buttons that employees can push to set off security alarms. But the Lincoln Square location only has a webcam, which wasn’t recording.

Since the robbery, SP2's owners put up signs in the store that said “Smile, you’re on camera,” as a deterent, and Frank said they have plans for other security measures.

“This is a really safe neighborhood, and we were all really shocked,” she said. “Even the police said they were really surprised by the call. It was a traffic filled Thursday. Kind of warmer, sunny.”

Michael Merkle and Pat Rodarte, owners of the nearby Gallimaufry Gallery, said they try to ensure that two employees, or themselves, are at the store whenever it’s open.

The neighborhood’s second robbery occurred on Sunday afternoon, less than a mile south of SP2, at the clothing resale shop Second Journey Resale. The store was closed Monday afternoon, and a sign in the window said it would reopen on March 28.

David Vail, who has owned the nearby clothing store Hazel Apparel for the past decade, said he was staffing his store on Sunday afternoon but did not see the robbery. The block was quiet at the time, he said, and some of the nearby shops, which include a pastry shop and a dry cleaner, were closed.

“It’s a little out of the blue,” he said.

The police alert describes the offender as a black man between 35 and 45 years old, and between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 2 inches, 240-250 pounds, with a medium to dark complexion. It also said he as wearing a beige jacket, dark jogging pants, and dark gym shoes.

Police suggested that businesses install door buzzers and maintain their video surveillance and security systems.

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