Vandalism, looting and rioting have occurred throughout the nation, accompanying mass protests following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died under the knee of a now fired and charged white Minneapolis police officer. Oak Park and River Forest have not gone unscathed, with multiple properties damaged in both villages.
Two women smashed the front window of EcoKarat Jewelry, 131 N. Marion St. in Oak Park, and stole merchandise the afternoon of June 1 before fleeing in a car. The car caught fire during its attempted escape and ended up in a village parking enclave at Austin Boulevard and Randolph. A second vehicle also caught fire. Oak Park fire personnel put out the fire. However, the witness could not identify the woman driving as having participated in the burglary. A 27-year-old woman was charged with looting and burglary in connection with the jewelry store break in.
Also in Oak Park, Tobacco & Vape, 6415 North Ave., was burglarized at about 10 p.m., June 1 after a window was smashed. The clerk at Denny’s, 711 N. Harlem Ave., was held at gunpoint and $150 was taken at 9:50 p.m., June 1.
Oak Park police detained two juveniles in connection with an attempted break in at CFSC Currency Exchange, 1147 Madison St., at about 3:20 a.m., June 2.
Eight businesses in Oak Park and one in River Forest were damaged overnight May 31, despite curfews in both villages imposed to limit vandalism and looting to local businesses. Neither Oak Park police nor River Forest police made any arrests for that day.
In River Forest, vandals hit the CVS located at 7929 North Ave.
“A couple of subjects broke the front doors, went inside and made off with a couple of bottles of liquor. No arrests, citations, or other damage has occurred,” said River Forest Police Chief Jim O’Shea.
The previous night in River Forest, a group of people attempted to rob the 7-Eleven convenience store at 1140 N. Harlem Ave.
“We had an armed robbery crew that was active in the city and suburbs try to enter our 7-Eleven on Harlem,” said O’Shea. “The clerk had locked the door earlier and the offenders cracked the glass on the door but did not make entry.”
Half of the businesses in Oak Park damaged the night of May 31 are located on North Avenue, including PCS Metro cell phone store, 6319 North Ave.; A-1 Pawn Shop, 6151 North Ave.; PNC Bank, 6621 North Ave.; and Suds 2000 laundromat, 6045 North Ave.
Suds 2000 received an estimated $20,000 worth of damage, after the offenders broke into the business and damaged a vending machine, a washing machine card vending machine, as well as an ATM, which they unsuccessfully attempted to steal, according to police reports.
MedMen marijuana dispensary, 1132 Lake St.; Oak Park Jewelers, 101 S. Marion St.; Walgreens, 811 Madison St.; and Dream Town shoe store, 4 Madison St., are among other Oak Park businesses to have sustained damage May 31.
On the Chicago side of North Avenue, MY Beauty Supply, 6014 W. North Ave., and Pru/Utopia hair salon, 6118 W. North Ave., have windows boarded up.
The activity in Oak Park calmed around 1:30 a.m., June 1. As of that day, Oak Park police officers have made no arrests regarding the vandalism and break ins.
“Two suspects were detained in connection with Metro PCS incident, but the business owner declined to sign a complaint,” said Oak Park spokesman David Powers. “A juvenile was detained in connection with the MedMen incident and turned over to parents. Police determined the juvenile did not cause the damage but had entered the business through a broken window.”
Oak Park police officers are still in the process of determining the full extent of damages to many of these businesses. Much of the damage inflicted on Oak Park businesses include graffiti, as well as broken windows and doors.
According to a news release issued by the village of Oak Park, many of the reported graffiti incidents occurred in the 1000, 1100 and 1200 north blocks of Hayes, Lombard and Taylor avenues, as well as LeMoyne Parkway. Overhead garage doors and some vehicles within these blocks were graffitied.
Oak Park village government is devising a plan to work with the garage and vehicle owners to help remove the graffiti from their properties.
“Last night was an incredibly tough one for police,” said Powers in a June 1 email to Wednesday Journal. “Tonight could be, too.”
River Forest’s O’Shea said, “Currently we are monitoring all intelligence information coming in from our county, state, and federal law enforcement partners, as well as, observing news media, social media, and regional police radio traffic,” O’Shea said.
River Forest police officers are also actively patrolling residential and business areas within their jurisdiction.
“The River Forest Police Department maintains a high visibility presence within both the residential and business communities,” said O’Shea. “The department has additional resources on hand to support keeping the village safe and viable.”