WICKER PARK — A group of shoplifters that stole from two Milwaukee Avenue shops Tuesday were chased and arrested by bike cops and officers in cars, Chicago Police said.
The dramatic incident and chase happened at about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee, according to Officer Michael Carroll, a Chicago Police spokesman.
Carroll said two adults and three juveniles went into two retail stores on the block and “began putting items from the store into an empty yellow bag.”
Witnesses confirmed to Block Club Chicago that the impacted stores were neighboring Urban Outfitters and G-Star Raw. Late Tuesday, employees at Urban Outfitters said they could not talk with the media. G-Star Raw was closed for the day.
After the group left the stores, they hopped into a gray Lincoln SUV driven by Tayah Washington, 18, who sped through an alley in an attempt to evade a group of Near North bike officers, who happened to be nearby, police said.
Carroll said the Area North bike officers, who were joined by Shakespeare District officers in cars, followed the fleeing SUV for two blocks, until its driver Washington rear ended a Silver Nissan driven by a 25-year-old man in the 1200 block of North Paulina, about three blocks south of the stores.
The man driving the Nissan was not seriously injured in the crash and refused medical treatment, Carroll said.
After bumping into the Nissan, Washington and the four other people in the SUV with her jumped out and ran away. They were chased and later caught by officers on bikes, Carroll said.
Washington, of the 8700 block of South Burley Avenue, is slated to appear in bond court on Wednesday. She faces seven charges, the most serious a felony for aggravated fleeing. She was also charged with misdemeanors for retail theft, reckless driving, damage to property and failure to reduce speed. She received two traffic tickets for using an alley as a through street and not having a valid driver’s license, Carroll said.
A 17-year-old girl who was also arrested in the incident had a warrant out for a past incident of shoplifting at a Dick’s Sporting Goods, and since the juvenile was wanted for a similar crime, her charges were raised from a misdemeanor to a felony, officials said.
The other members of the group arrested were Amecia Henderson, 24, of the 6500 block of King Drive, charged with one misdemeanor count of retail theft; a 17-year-old boy charged with misdemeanor retail theft; and a 15-year-old boy charged with misdemeanor retail theft and felony retail theft, police said.
Late Tuesday, several workers on the block said they’d witnessed the chase from earlier in the day.
Leon Osvaldo, an employee at Native Foods, a restaurant across from Urban Outfitters, did not see the shoplifters leave the store but witnessed “police everywhere” in cars and on bikes.
“People were saying a group of kids were caught for shoplifting. I only saw all the police [afterwards]. I am happy to see more police. We’ve had our cash tip jar stolen a few times and we’ve been broken into before,” Osvaldo said.
The Area North bike officers are part of a new patrol initiative to put more police on the streets. They’re augmenting existing patrols by the Shakespeare Police District (14th).
Late Tuesday, Jesse Valentin, a worker at Red Mango, a frozen yogurt shop, said he noticed all the commotion and “saw bike cops everywhere” after the incident.
Valentin said he was pulled over by a bike cop last week.
“I was driving down Honore toward the park and a bike cop came right out and blocked my car. He pulled me over for not wearing a seatbelt. I didn’t get a ticket, just a warning, but those bike cops, they’re on it,” Valentin said.
Earlier this month, three teenagers from Naperville and a Chicago teen who’d bummed a cigarette from the visitors all received tickets from bike cops for smoking cigarettes in the park at 1425 N. Damen Ave.