Phone app helps cops break up bike-riding robbery ring


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By Jean Lotus

Forest Park Review Editor

A stolen cellphone app helped Oak Park police nab one of a group of 6-10 bike-riding robbers who committed a string of three robberies by surrounding and intimidating their victims Sunday night in Oak Park between 10:45 and 11 p.m.

Police arrested two juveniles and an adult in connection with the robberies and said they expect more arrests to follow.

Victims said 6-10 males of various ages on bikes surrounded them in the 1100 block of North Ridgeland Avenue, the 300 block of Thomas Street, and the 100 block of Lake Street. Assailants demanded cellphones and wallets.

Also, in what police think is a related incident, a cellphone was stolen from a table at a block party in the 700 block of North Taylor Avenue. Police said the phone was being used to play music at the party.

 The bike-riding robbers implied they had weapons and threatened violence, victims told police, although no weapons were displayed.

The ring was cracked when Oak Park police caught a juvenile on a bike in the 100 block of Washington Boulevard. He was caught within minutes of the Thomas Street robbery because of a location app on one of the stolen phones. Chicago police arrested two other suspects for similar crimes and made the connection with the Oak Park robberies, police said.

"These types of crimes are among the disadvantages of sharing a border with amajor metropolitan area as criminals can simply hop on a bicycle, cross the border to commit crimes and then flee back into a dense, urban neighborhood," said Police Chief Rick Tanksley. 

Tanksley praised cooperation with the Chicago Police Dept. for help in solving the crimes.

No injuries were reported. Tanksley said the victims kept calm, complied with their assailants' demands and quickly notified the police.

This story has ben updated to correct a quote from Police Chief Rick Tanksley.

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Reader Comments

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Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 7:06 AM

Lots of good advice here! Here's some more: If you see something suspicious but not an emergency, call our local village Police at 708-386-2131 directly instead of 911. 911 dispatchers tend to belittle (in my experience) such suspicious call-ins, but our village officers are much more sympathetic to checking these things out. (911 is more a regional dispatch, so they're less likely to appreciate the more proactive policing we want to practice here.)

New OP Resident from OP  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 1:42 PM

This may be old news, but here's how to get to know your resident beat OP police officer, many of whom live in the beat areas themselves.

New OP Resident from OP  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 1:37 PM

@Phil -- THANKS! Just called Asst States Attorney Sabra Ebersole to express my interest in the Court Advocacy program and found her to be really, REALLY helpful. She also suggested to me (a new OP resident) to make sure to attend the resident beat cop mtgs as a way of staying informed, involved, and safe. There ARE ways to make a difference for my families and others!

Not always good response from OP police from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 12:59 PM

I recently called about 3 kids on 2 bikes. By the time I was put on hold twice and had to give all my home info twice (I wasn't near my home) the kids were out of sight. This is the second time in 2 years I found it difficult to make an "I see something suspicious" report. Why can't they take relevant info, dispatch someone and get the rest afterwards. This last call took 13 minutes.

Saw them  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 9:03 AM

First, kudos to both the OP and the Chicago police. They really do make a difference. Second, I think I likely saw these kids the other night and they were making a huge ruckus. Just a cue to everyone to heed the adage "if you see something, say something." I've found OP Police to be extremely accommodating to receive that 311 call and check things out.

Oak Park Islander  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 8:48 AM

acting disorderly are also an indication. If kids/teen/young adults from across the border are riding through back alleys, call the cops etc. I know some will say "how can you tell who's from across the border"? Well, it's not hard to spot the guys from an urban hood, and if you can't, you either have your eyes deliberately closed, or don't have any street smarts. "What about profiling"? The cops say "let them worry about that", if you have a gut feeling, listen to it and call the police.

Oak Park Islander  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 8:44 AM

Thanks Phil for the information. I want to add that as much as people hate the idea of "profiling", it's a reality that groups of kids come over to Oak Park on bikes to commit crime (robbery and theft), so it's important to analyze the situation to see if it warrants a call to the police. The police have said that if there's 1 person standing on the back his buddies bike, it's a red flag that they're "shopping" for a bike, and you should call the police. Large groups of teens and young adults

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: August 26th, 2014 6:49 AM

If you'd like to do something, contact Asst State Atty Gen Sabra Ebersole at 708-386-7301. She's our local rep for the Court Advocacy Program, which helps organize victims and their communities to "lobby" judges to better listen to our concerns. She can make sure your voice is heard at the sentencing so the judge (elected official!) understands the impact such crimes have on the fabric of our neighborhoods. If we don't appear in court, then the judge only hears sob stories from the criminals.

Oak Park Islander  

Posted: August 25th, 2014 9:57 PM

Good work OPPD! I'm going to guess that the 6-10 males are going to be released to their parents with a stern warning. Some judge will give the older ones a light sentence, because they are "disadvantaged youths", and they'll be out on the street in no time doing what they do best, which is ride about like a pact of animals, and look for easy victims. Sad thing is, there are plenty more animals where these ones can from, so don't let your guard down.

Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2014 7:27 PM

Congrats to the police and thank goodness for that app. I just want to state that I have been victim of bicycle theft, and so has my daughter and HER daughter. 3 bikes stolen from different Oak Park addresses!!

Mary Unbehauen Rodrigo from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 25th, 2014 6:53 PM

Great job by the police. Glad no one was hurt.

Sarge from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2014 6:45 PM

Smart move to use that app. Great police work by OPPD & CPD. The police need our support to better serve this fine community . Check out out the Village Of Oak Park website/police for lots of useful information . There is going to be crime . Let's make it difficult for it to happen here. Citizen involvement is key. Stay safe!


Posted: August 25th, 2014 6:19 PM

Fabulous. Kudos to OP police for their dedication and hard work.

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