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UPDATED 11/02/11 7:11 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A frightening warning has been issued on the city’s Northwest Side, about men who have been knocking on doors posing as undercover Chicago Police officers.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Grand Central Area detectives say in three separate incidents in the Irving Park, Mayfair and Jefferson Park neighborhoods, the men, ranging in age from about 18 to 36, knocked on the homes of doors and told homeowners they were police officers or undercover officers.
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In each, the men had police paraphernalia, such as gold badges and radios. In two of the attempts, they got into the homes but later fled in a large, dark red sport-utility vehicle or navy Blue Town & Country van, a community alert said.
The men are described as white and/or Hispanic, 5-foot-7 to 6-foot-3, and 140 to 230 pounds They were wearing baseball caps, zippered gray sweatshirts or black hooded sweatshirts, the alert said.
The incidents happened on Saturday about 6 p.m. in the 4000 block of North Harding Avenue; on Sunday about 5 p.m. in the 4900 block of North Karlov Avenue; and about 5:15 p.m. on Sunday in the 5000 block of West Gunnison Street.
Dorothy Martorano’s house was among those targeted by the fake cops. Hers was one of two homes in which the suspects made it inside.
“It’s disturbing, because there they were in the house,” she said.
The fake officers showed up at Martorano’s house on Sunday afternoon.
They didn’t knock. Martorano first became aware of their presence when she heard one of them rummaging through her living room.
When she went to check it out she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“There was a guy standing in the middle of our front room, and I said, ‘Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?’” she said. “And he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, don’t worry, we’re the police,’ and he flashed a badge.”
Martorano initially believed the men, who made up a story about a four man robbery crew that surveillance had supposedly picked up casing Martorano’s garage.
“‘They’re in your garage, and they’re going through all your stuff,’ and so I, of course, immediately turn around to see what the heck is going on in the garage,” Martorano said.
That was when Martorano spotted the fake cops three accomplices. She started to become suspicious of the men but allowed them into her home.
But alarm bells really started going off when one of them left the group and started making a racket in another room.
“So I went to see what was going on, and did not stay in the kitchen, and there was a guy going through drawers, and I said, ‘That has nothing to do with what you’re talking about,’” said.
Finally, she called 911.
“Thank God I was able to do that; I mean, I don’t know. It could have been a very dangerous situation. But I picked up 911, and I started talking to the operator, and then what I heard in the background was, ‘Oh, she’s calling,’ and then they took off,” she said.
Another resident, Terrence Gallagher, suspects the same group of men bluffed their way into his home posing as contractors and stole a ring.
“I want them picked up. I want them arrested,” Gallagher said. “There’s a lot of elderly people in this neighborhood. This is a good neighborhood, and they’re taking advantage of the elderly people, and people like me and things. I mean, they need to be picked up. Something’s going to happen.”
Gallagher says he is certain he was targeted by the same men now posing as police officers.
“They had walkie-talkie-type telephones,” he said. “Same guys, no doubt.”
Police advise everyone to be vigilant, and remind the public that all Chicago Police officers carry a five-point star and identification card. You may ask anyone who comes to your door to show his or her badge and ID card before allowing entry, and call 911 for anyone suspicious.
Anyone with information should call detectives at (312) 746-8282.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.