CHICAGO (CBS) — A volunteer group of citizen crime fighters is calling the Magnificent Mile – a popular tourist destination in Chicago – the “Muggers’ Mile,” to spotlight robberies along Michigan Avenue.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports the Guardian Angels routinely patrol the Magnificent Mile, and the CTA Red Line subway that runs nearby.
They said criminals have been turning the popular stretch of Michigan Avenue into their own ATM, and attacks there have grown more violent. However, police said robberies in the area are down compared to last year.
Members of the Guardian Angels were at the corner of Michigan and Chicago avenues Tuesday morning, handing out flyers with safety tips to shoppers and tourists, while making their normal patrols.
The men in red berets said they came up with the Muggers’ Mile nickname, because they want to avoid the moniker from becoming reality.
They reminded passersby to put their cell phones away, install tracking software on their smart phones, and log off from their apps; whether it’s a banking account, or their email.
Over the weekend, police responded to a handful of muggings on Michigan Avenue, and not far away at 200 W. Illinois St.
A few downtown residents said they were surprised to hear the Guardian Angels using the term Muggers’ Mile.
“There was a woman – over, I think, on Michigan the other day — her iPhone got stolen … by a bunch of kids,” Allison Escandon said.
Streeterville resident Arun Das said, “Obviously, there’s been a rash of incidents over the summer so far, but I think I’ve seen a lot more police presence around the area, especially living here, walking to work every day. So I really wouldn’t go to that extreme.”
The Guardian Angels agreed there has been increased police presence in the area during the summer, but said they want to make sure the problem doesn’t get any worse.
“What we don’t want is for it to become the Muggers’ Mile. Again, there’s been a rash of attacks in the area. Police have actually stepped up their presence, things have calmed down quite a bit,” Guardian Angel member Thomas Hunt said. “But when the weather gets good, you’ve got the flash mobs here – the bash mobs, should we call them – people are getting their ID and different things stolen, their cell phones stolen, their purses stolen.”
Chicago police released this statement in response to the Guardian Angels:
“Michigan Avenue and the general downtown area are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people everyday. Chicago’s downtown area continues to be safe and while there have been a few isolated incidents police have responded quickly, making arrests in several of them before they become a larger problem.”
A police spokesperson went on to say there have been only three robberies reported on the Magnificent Mile in the last 28 days.