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CHICAGO (CBS) – Wrigleyville, Boystown, and other parts of the trendy Lakeview neighborhood have been targeted by a group of robbers who roam the streets wielding pepper spray.
The robberies have been happening in an area bounded by Belmont Avenue to the south, Addison Street to the north, Pine Grove Avenue to the east, and Sheffield Avenue to the west.
The pepper-spray attacks have happened four times over the last two days.
Belmont Area Robbery Sgt. Timothy Kusinski said in each case, the victims heard footsteps and were sprayed before they could react.
“It makes it easier to get the proceeds, and take the fight out of the victim,” Kusinski said.
He said that at that point, the thieves merely knocked the victims to the ground and took their valuables.
“It’s wallets, purses, phones — the typical things that they’re looking for,” Kusinski said.
Kusinski said in no case did the thieves get a lot of cash.
The robbers are described as African-American men between the ages of 18 and 30, standing 5 feet 5 to 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing between 150 to 200 pounds. They all have black hair and a dark complexion, and were seen wearing T-shirts and blue jeans.
Police advise people in the neighborhood to avoid walking alone if possible, tell their friends about the incidents, and find out if the buildings where they live have working surveillance cameras.
Neighbors near Buckingham and Broadway say they’ll be more careful now.
“I walk out two or three o’clock in the morning sometimes, and I feel completely safe,” Rey Rodri said. “So this is something new. It’s shocking — scary actually.”
Detectives are checking in the vicinity of each of the robberies to see if private security cameras captured the attacks.
Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to call Belmont Are police detectives, at (312) 744-8263.