By Lauren Victory

CHICAGO (CBS) — Looters ransacked stores across Chicago for a second time 45 days ago, and since then, police have tirelessly poured over hours of video looking for evidence to catch the crooks.

CBS 2’s Lauren Victory took us inside the war room where detectives are doing just that.

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A few mouse clicks here, a couple taps there – combing through hours of video can be tedious. But a split-second shot can be a big break.

So he’ll go frame and look at what is the best image that we can push out to the public?” said Sgt. Alex Wolinksi.

Sgt. Wolinski is in charge of the team trying to individually identify more than 1,000 people involved in widespread vandalism on the early morning of Monday. Aug. 10.

“We work almost as an assembly line,” Wolinski said.

The six-week-old Looting Task Force first focused on collecting video. Officers are specially trained to extract footage from all sorts of surveillance systems.

“It’s as good as the technology is,” said CPD Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.

Deenihan explained that not every image is going to be clear.

“Depending on what kind of video are at these locations, including the city videos, you can’t just make magic with it,” he said.

That is why labeling and cataloging each and every looter is important. Details down to clothing, shoes, and a possible getaway car are part of it – in case the same thief pops up in a different video.

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“Some of these pictures you’ll even see, well, this guy doesn’t have any stolen items in his hands, but that’s the best picture we have,” Deenihan said.

Sometimes, characteristics are pointed out because masks can present a challenge, like in the case of one suspect who was charged with three counts of burglary recently. Looking at his mug shot, it isn’t so clear that it’s the same person captured on surveillance video in a mask.\

How do police determine that?

“So for this, specifically for LTF 1, it was based on the build,” Wolinski said. “There was several identifiers like tattoos.”

Calls from the public help too. Inside a second room, tips are vetted and then handed over to another part of the looting task force – case investigators.

“Hey, that guy lives down the block, that’s who that is,” Deenihan said.

Dennihan’s detectives have already booked more than 70 looters, with hundreds to go.

“We’re not going to quit,” Deenihan said. “We’re going to keep moving forward and as we push out these pictures. We’re going to constantly be asking for help from the community.”

We asked if the arrests so far were satisfying. Deenihan said that is a question for business owners – some of which were so hurt by looting that shops remain closed.

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If you have any information about looting incidents, contact the Area Three Looting Task Force at (312) 744-8263. You can also email, or send an anonymous top to

Lauren Victory