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Probe Continues Into Wicker Park, Logan Square Robberies

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Wicker Park Robberies

Police are reportedly holding a person of interest in a string of robberies in the Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square neighborhoods. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 02/03/12 1:44 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police continue to search for the man who committed a string of robberies in the Bucktown, Wicker Park and Logan Square neighborhoods.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, police Thursday afternoon said no one was in custody. Earlier, Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) said he had just spoken to police, and had found out that someone had been held.

“I do know that this individual was arrested, perhaps attempting or in the process of committing a crime, but that person is in custody,” Moreno said.

But police later said that person, who was arrested in the 1700 block of North Western Avenue, had not matched the pattern of the person involved in the string of robberies.

A total of 13 attacks have been reported over the past couple of months in an area bounded by Ashland Avenue on the east, Central Park Avenue on the west, Belmont Avenue on the north and Division Street on the south. The locations of the robberies are in trendy Near Northwest Side neighborhoods of Logan Square, Wicker Park and Bucktown.

The most recent robbery happened around 5:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 27, outside of Penny’s Noodles, at 1542 N. Damen Ave. just south of the iconic and bustling intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues.

Restaurant owner Gus Chiamopoulos said police asked if his surveillance camera picked up any images of the robbery, which happened at 5:34 a.m. when the area was nearly deserted. He checked his computer, and there it was.

“I thought it was pretty stunning, you know, that it’s all right there,” Chiamopoulos told CBS 2’s Mike Parker.

The video, shot from inside at the rear of Penny’s Noodles, shows a woman carrying a purse as she walks past the junction of Damen and Pierce avenues.

A man is walking several steps behind her, but suddenly, he quickens his pace and grabs the woman. He yanks away her purse, throws her to the ground, and runs off.

Another camera catches the aftermath as the thief comes around the corner and hightails it out of sight. The victim is also seen watching the culprit disappear.

Prior to the Jan. 27 incident, the same robber was suspected in 12 other attacks:

• the 3100 block of West Fullerton Avenue, Dec. 4, 2011, 5:20 a.m.
• the 1800 block of North California Avenue, Dec. 17, 2011, 6 a.m.
• the 1700 block of North Central Park Avenue, Dec. 21, 2011, 6:15 a.m.
• the 1900 block of North Western Avenue, Dec. 22, 2011, 11 p.m.
• the 2100 block of North California Avenue, Dec. 24, 2011, 7:30 a.m.
• the 2000 block of North Kimball Avenue, Dec. 31, 2011, 11:20 p.m.
• the 1500 block of North Hoyne Avenue, Jan. 3, 2012, 3 a.m.
• the 1700 block of West Wabansia Avenue, Jan. 4, 2012, 4:32 p.m.
• the 2600 block of West Wellington Avenue, Jan. 6, 2012, 8 p.m.
• the 2100 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, Jan. 8, 2012, noon
• the 1500 block of North Maplewood Avenue, Jan. 20, 2012, 8 p.m.
• the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, Jan. 21, 2012, 2 a.m.

The suspect has been targeting women, and has stolen purses, money and cell phones.

But as of just 24 hours ago, police had few leads, according to Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), whose ward neighbors Moreno’s.

“It happens so fast that the victims have not been able to provide accurate descriptions of the offenders,” Maldonado said Thursday.

But Ald. Moreno said people should always use caution.

“We still want people to be careful all year round. It’s always good to try to walk in groups, try to stay off your cell phone, and try to keep your headphones out of your ears,” he said.

People in neighborhood have been using extra caution.

“I usually get out of work when it’s getting pretty dark, so I’m very cautious,” said Damaris Ruiz, who works in Wicker Park. “I’m looking to the sides, who’s behind me, how close they are; make sure not to be on my phone.”

“I was concerned because I always thought this was a really safe neighborhood, and you know, I go a lot of places by myself. I generally get up early in the morning, so it causes me to worry a little bit.” said Wicker Park resident Stephanie Kohut.

Even with news of the arrest, women in the neighborhood say they will still use extra caution.

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