BUCKTOWN — With Christmas just days away, thefts from parked cars and of packages sitting in front of homes and apartment buildings are "crimes of opportunity," police said.
A rise in thefts, which Shakespeare District Officer Gretchen Chavez said is "a problem districtwide this time of year," was discussed at a Bucktown Beat 1432/33 CAP meeting Thursday in the basement of St. Mary of the Angels Church, 1850 N. Hermitage Ave.
Just one resident and three representatives from an area bar attended the meeting for the combined beats, which are bordered by Western Avenue to the west, Elston Avenue to the east, Division Street to the south and Diversey Parkway to the north.
In addition to the rise in thefts, the area experienced a "terrible week for robberies," Sgt. Joseph Giambrone said.
Within the last week, there was an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store in Wicker Park and at a Walgreens at 2440 W. North Ave., the latter which resulted in the arrest of Benjamin Strong, 21, who was held on $275,00 bond after being accused of "pistol-whipping" a Walgreens employee.
Both the armed robberies were committed by men with pistols, one of whom allegedly told a victim that he was doing it because he has a family, too, Giambrone said.
"They get brazen at Christmas," Giambrone said of the criminals who may want to use the proceeds of the robberies to buy presents.
"As much as you're stressed out about getting loved ones presents, they'll [the bad guys] do whatever it takes to get something," he said.
To help prevent theft of packages, Chavez offered basic tips, like having packages delivered to work or to a neighbor who is going to be at home.
Chavez cautioned residents to make sure that items in parked cars are out of view.
"Even if you have a duffel bag full of sweaty gym clothes, [a thief] doesn't know that's what's inside and will break in anyway," Chavez said.
Theft dominated the "top 10" crimes for both Bucktown beats, with 26 reports of retail theft, 22 reports of thefts from cars, and 18 reports of thefts from buildings from Oct. 17 to Dec. 19.
Also in the recent period, there were five reports of strong-arm robberies with no weapon and three reports of robbery with a knife or cutting instrument.
Around 2:20 a.m on Nov. 3, Bucktown police said they arrested an armed robber as he attacked a man with a stick in the 1400 block of West Wabansia Ave.
Dominic Eskridge, 29, of the 4800 block of West Kamerling Ave. was beating the man that he was trying to rob, but the victim, a 23-year-old man, happened to be skilled in the martial arts and fought back, Giambrone said.
Eskridge, who was charged with felony armed robbery, was sent to an area hospital with a broken leg, according to Giambrone.
The next Beat 1433/43 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at St. Mary of the Angels Church, 1850 N. Hermitage Ave.