Cops looking to stop series of armed robberies

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By BILL DWYER

Oak Park police are seeking a number of individuals they believe are connected to a series of armed robberies of female motorists over the past two weeks. According to Deputy Chief Carl Leidy, five women have been approached by armed men since July 26 and four robbed. All the crimes have occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight and all victimized lone women pulling into parking spaces or alleys. The robbers wore ski masks in the first three robberies but not the last two. Police speculate that the robberies involve different people within the same group.

The latest robberies occurred on August 4. Just after 9 p.m. a woman had parked her car in her garage in the 300 block of South Taylor Avenue when she was approached by a man inside the garage. The man stated he had a gun, but didn't display it, then demanded her purse. The woman resisted and the man physically pulled her from the garage as he struggled to take the purse. After wresting it from her grasp, the man ran off. The total loss was $390.

Around 11:30 that same night another woman parked her car on an alley apron in the 1000 block of North Lombard Avenue then walked around to the passenger side of the car to pick up her daughter. As she did a man placed a hard object against her back and said, "Don't say a word, don't say anything or I'll shoot your daughter and then I'll shoot you."

The man then told her to give him her wedding ring and her purse, which she did. He then fled. The ring, a gold band with a two Karat diamond and nine diamonds on either side, is valued at $4,000.

Friday night and throughout the weekend plainclothes tactical teams were in the neighborhood, looking to catch the robbery team or teams. Oak Park police have also contacted Chicago police officials and asked them to assess whether they've had similar incidents there.

Leidy advised anyone in such circumstances to be aware of their surroundings. He said that a woman who foiled a July 26 robbery attempt by driving out of her garage honking her car horn after seeing a gunman exhibited the sort of awareness and presence of mind needed to avoid becoming a victim.

"She showed some real awareness. She read it well," said Leidy, who urged people to "follow your gut" in such situations. "If it doesn't feel right, it's not right. Err on the side of safety and (keep going)," he said.

"Don't worry about the overnight parking ban," added Police Chief Rick Tanksley added. "Park in front of your house. Or call (police) for an escort."

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