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Video Shows 'Wicker Park Stroller Gang' Stealing Bike, Tips From Pizza Spot

By Kyla Gardner | November 12, 2014 12:42pm
Bike Theft Video
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DNAinfo Chicago

CHICAGO — Surveillance video captured a group of "brazen" thieves stealing tip jar money and a $700 bike from a Wicker Park pizzeria over the weekend.

"We looked at the cameras, and we were just blown away by what we saw," said Craft Pizza co-owner Scott Toth.

The footage shows a group of three young men and two young women with a baby in a stroller entering the pizzeria at 1252 N. Damen Ave. just before noon Saturday.

The owner says a suspicious phone order may have served as a distraction:

After ordering one slice of pizza, one woman grabs $10 out of the tip jar when the cashier's back is turned. She hides the cash in a to-go menu that she puts on the baby's stroller.

"The security cameras are right out in the open. It's not like they're hidden at all," Toth said. "I guess they didn't see them or didn't care."

Toth dubbed the group the "infamous Wicker Park stroller gang."

The woman was friendly to the cashier and asked if the restaurant was hiring, he said.

"Why would you be suspicious?" Toth said. "They have a kid in a stroller. You wouldn't suspect anything."

Toth said the $10 wasn't a big deal — but the thieves took more than that.

After leaving the restaurant, a young boy scaled a 10-foot high, locked fence to nab cook Aaron Johnson's $700 bicycle from an area next to the building.

Johnson said he figured the gate had been left open by a tenant, and he was surprised by the footage.

"I was like, 'What the f---?'" Johnson said. "Everyone was shocked. Nobody ever thought anybody was going to climb this gigantic fence."

"It was just so brazen, in broad daylight," Toth said. "That fence is a 10-foot high fence, and it's tricky to climb, and has spikes at the top."

The footage also shows the bike thief looking at Johnson's bag, but he doesn't take it.

The not-exactly-mastermind plot includes one more strange twist: At the same time as the bicycle theft, someone called to order a pizza, but dilly-dallied on specifics.

"It was a weird order," said cashier Tavia Hanrahan, 23. "They were definitely just keeping me on the phone."

Toth has a hunch it was a woman from the group — and though no one ever came to pick up the order, she did leave a first name — Desiré — and phone number.

Toth called her back twice, and she answered both times. She said she wanted to cancel the order, and didn't bite when Toth tried to get her to give him her address, just to keep on file.

Johnson filed a police report, but said he was told by cops the odds are slim he'll see his bike again.

"This is my sixth bike that's been stolen in the city," he said.

The 23-year-old Logan Square resident is also a student at the Success Barber School, and said he can't afford another bike right now.

"I've pretty much given up hope on being a cyclist in Chicago," he said. "I'm tired of getting my stuff stolen."

Craft Pizza is offering a reward to anyone with information about the bike or "stroller gang," and is taking tips at RecoverOurCooksBike@gmail.com.

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