Wicker Park Robbery, Stabbing Has Neighbors On Edge
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UPDATED 02/17/12 8:37 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Police are looking for the assailant in another attack that is mounting concerns about safety in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, in the latest incident, a woman was stabbed during a holdup Thursday at the Asrai Garden Flower Shop, in a storefront on the ground floor of the iconic Flat Iron Building at the bustling intersection of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
On Friday morning, the Guardian Angels were out at the Damen Blue Line station to pass out safety information fliers in response to the stabbing and robbery.
About 20 Guardian Angels will be out throughout the day.
One flier says, “Don’t become a victim,” and lists safety tips – particularly for those who walk down the street using electronic devices.
“Get off the phone,” the flier says. “Not only are you distracted, but you just invited the attention of a criminal. Also, take the headphones off.”
The second flier announces a Guardian Angels self-defense training course that will be held Saturday evening between 6 and 8 p.m. at the Champions Tae Kwon Do institute, 2142 N. Milwaukee Ave. For more on that, click here.
The latest attack occurred just half a block from a violent purse snatching that happened last month. Early in the morning on Friday, Jan. 27, surveillance video at Penny’s Noodles, 1542 N. Damen Ave., showed a man yanking away a woman’s purse and throwing her to the ground.
It was one of several of strongarm robberies that hit the Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square neighborhoods in recent weeks. Police continue to seek the suspect in those attacks as they investigate the latest incident at the flower shop.
Guardian Angels leader Miguel Fuentes the scene said crime in Wicker Park has festered into a serious problem.
“We had 13 strongarm robberies. We had three shootings about a week ago right down on Milwaukee Avenue. We had a robbery at the Subway on Western Avenue that resulted in one of the employees being shot, and then passing away, obviously, from the gunshot wound,” he said. “So obviously, Wicker Park-Bucktown has become an open ATM for criminals.”
Residents and business owners in this area are also seriously concerned.
“I couldn’t believe that that happened,” said Wicker Park resident Tim Burgess. “I’m really kind of astounded by it.”
Nina Petrovic works overnights as a security guard, and even she is a bit leery about walking the streets in Wicker Park.
“It’s just very dangerous late nights and early mornings. I need to just always turn around to see if my purse is still there,” she said.
In the latest attack, police say a man stabbed a female employee in the head and arm at the Asrai Garden flower shop, 1935 W. North Ave. The attack happened around 11:20 a.m.
“She got taken out in a stretcher. She was covered in blood. We didn’t really know how she was stabbed at first, or just marked up, but she fought back,” said Melody Palermo, a friend of the victim’s.
Palermo said Thursday afternoon that it was hard to watch her friend in so much pain.
Authorities say a fight broke out at the flower shop after a man handed the woman a note demanding money and her iPod.
During the struggle, police say the man picked up a floral cutting knife and stabbed the woman several times.
Palermo told CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli she believed she was approached by the assailant about half an hour before he went on the attack in the flower shop. She says police confirmed her suspicions.
“It was scary, and realizing that it could have been me was really what took my breath away,” Palermo said.
The junction of Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues is one of the hottest spots in the city, and Flat Iron Arts building where the Asrai Garden is located is one of the neighborhood’s most famous venues.
The building serves as an artists’ colony with a variety of gallery and studio spaces on the upper two floors. In addition to the Asrai Garden, its ground floor storefronts also host a Bank of America Branch, and a variety of bars, boutiques, restaurants, tobacco shops and other businesses.
But as artists honed their craft on the upper floors Thursday, police detectives were collecting evidence and dusting for prints at the scene on the ground level of the same building.
Meanwhile, two area businesses are already planning to hold staff meetings to ensure their employees know how to handle this type of situation.
“It’s a little scary, since we work right on the street,” said Itzel Juarez of Francesca’s Collections, a boutique at 1920 W. North Ave. “It’s just like, what do we do in that situation? How are we going to defend ourselves?”
The robber took off with an iPod and money from the register. Police say he was caught on at least one surveillance camera, but police have not released any images from the camera yet.
No useful description of the robber has been released, but police believe he is homeless and may be hearing impaired.
The victim was in stable condition at Stroger Hospital of Cook County as of Friday morning.