By Jean Lotus
Forest Park police arrested a man early Monday morning and charged him with robbing and burglarizing three antique stores on Madison Street within the past three months. Oak Park police also charged Carl Griffin, 44, of Chicago, with a convenience store burglary on Aug. 11.
In Oak Park on Aug. 11 around 7 a.m., a witness saw a man matching Griffin's description kick in the front door of Unity Foods, a convenience store at Lake Street and Austin Boulevard. Images of the man were captured on surveillance video. An undetermined number of lottery tickets and cartons of cigarettes were stolen, according to Oak Park Police Sgt. Michael Richardson.
According to reports, Griffin, who had been filmed on surveillance video in July and August, was walking down Madison Street around 5:30 a.m. Monday when a patrolling officer recognized him from flyers posted in the department.
Griffin was allegedly found to have a claw hammer in his waist band. In his pockets were a silver chain bracelet with a sticker reading "Yearbook, $105", an antique "Bentley" lighter and an antique folding knife. When questioned about the items, Griffin allegedly said they were "some things I just picked up."
Officers then traveled to Yearbook, 7316 Madison, and found the front door glass shattered. Inside, a display case had been shattered as well.
On July 17, a man matching Griffin's description allegedly snatched a diamond ring worth $4,595 from the hand of a clerk at Krenek's Antiques, 7501 Madison, and fled from the store around 2 p.m. He was observed by witnesses and captured on surveillance video.
Then on July 30, Krenek's was burglarized around 6 a.m. after the glass front door and display cases were shattered. Missing were two dozen gold and precious-stone rings.
In August, the Antique Emporium was the site of another burglary: again a display case was shattered. Missing from the case were 15 antique spoons, valued at $20 each, an antique Victorian pin worth $1,000, eight men's antique rings worth $560, and cufflinks and watches worth $600. A witness said a man matching the description of the earlier burglar was observed in the area the day before the incident.
Forest Park police released video photos and asked for the public's assistance in identifying the burglar in early August.
Griffin was on parole at the time of his Monday arrest. He's been arrested 31 times and had 14 convictions for burglary, larceny, robbery assault, drugs and traffic offenses.
"This is [Griffin's] profession," said Forest Park Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas. "Once someone starts doing things and gets away with it, it shows that they're successful and they're going to keep doing it that way."
Griffin was charged with four burglaries and a robbery.