String of thefts in downtown Chicago prompts increased security at high-end stores

Drastic measures are being taken to secure one of the city's swankiest streets. It comes after weeks of brazen robberies at high-end stores – and just this week, another shop was targeted.

Police are investigating a high-end heist at Prada on Oak Street in the Gold Coast. It’s not the first time the designer store has been robbed.

This time, police said three to seven men entered the store around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12, where they stole about 20 handbags, then fled in two getaway cars. Police said two of the offenders struggled with a private security guard inside the store. No one was hurt. Police are still looking for the unknown suspects.

It’s one of several robberies that’s led to stepped-up security in the area.

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Oak Street – which houses some of the city's most luxurious stores – has recently come to a complete standstill overnight. During the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 13, FOX 32 Chicago cameras captured Chicago Police Department barriers and squad cars protecting the block from Michigan Avenue to Rush Street.

"I guess something is better than nothing," said Jacqueline Gordan, Bravco Beauty co-owner. "You know, you get worried your store will be hit next."

Business owners, like Jacqueline and Michael Gordan who own Bravco Beauty, said the safety measure has been taking place sporadically for the last several weeks.

Chicago police said they cannot comment on their patrol and deployment strategies, but Alderman Brian Hopkins confirmed the measure is being taken to act as a visual deterrent in areas where smash-and-grab thefts are more common.

Alderman Hopkins released the following statement to FOX 32 Chicago on Thursday: "Marked police vehicles are sometimes parked in a prominent location in areas where organized retail theft is a recurring problem. This is intended as a visual deterrent, particularly in the overnight hours when smash-and-grab attacks have occurred more frequently. Offenders plan such attacks in the early morning hours with the intention of using the unoccupied streets to facilitate a rapid escape. Having additional police posted nearby provides a greater likelihood of an arrest."

"This way if they’re not able to get their car down the street, it’s a long distance to take the product, which makes it harder for them to steal or take more stuff. They can’t load up their vehicles," said Michael Gordan, co-owner of Bravco Beauty.

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There have been a slew of smash-and-grab incidents on Oak Street and the Magnificent Mile, including at Hermes and Prada just two days before Christmas. Last week, Burberry on Michigan Avenue was robbed in the early morning hours when thieves pried the door open. Now, vehicles sit in front of the store overnight to deter similar incidents.

"It amazes me how brazen these folks are to do this," said Rick Parker, Paul Stuart sales manager.

Parker said he hopes the increased police presence helps, but is still concerned that thefts are impacting customers’ willingness to shop downtown.

"I think what is keeping folks away from this area, which used to be a sanctuary, used to call it an oasis, is the fear of being mixed up in the middle of something like that," said Parker.

In response to the increased police presence on Oak Street, the Magnificent Mile Association said in a statement: "The Magnificent Mile Association works closely with the Chicago Police Department. We commend their ability to adapt their tactics and strategies to address security and safety concerns in our district."