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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Rash Of Car Break-Ins, Catalytic Converter Thefts Have Logan Square Neighbors On Edge

"It's a very uneasy feeling thinking that you can park your car in front of your house in your neighborhood and you wake up and someone messed with it. It's a very, very uneasy feeling," one victim said.

(from left) Logan Square resident Ashley Lawrence's car was broken into in recent weeks. The thief didn't take anything. (right) The same thing happened to professional wrestler Greg Smith, who goes by the name Gregory Iron, a couple of weeks ago.
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LOGAN SQUARE — Park at your own risk, Logan Square.

The neighborhood has seen a rash of car break-ins and catalytic converter thefts in recent months, according to several interviews with victims.

Nick Almendarez runs a monthly wrestling show at the Logan Square Auditorium at 2539 N. Kedzie Boulevard called Freelance Wrestling. Almendarez said the area around the venue, specifically in the parking lot behind the venue and along Linden Place, is getting hit with break-ins “constantly.”

“I see it on social media or when people are talking about the shows: ‘I wanna go to the show, but I don’t wanna risk my car broken into so I’m just going to stay home,'” Almendarez said.

“It’s very aggravating. It’s affecting my business and it’s affecting peoples’ enjoyment of the show,” he added.

Professional wrestler Greg Smith, who goes by the name Gregory Iron, had his 2012 Kia Optima broken into a few weeks ago while he was getting ready to perform at the Logan Square venue.

Smith’s car was parked in the parking lot behind the Logan Square Auditorium, which is owned by the CTA but used by the public, according to Almendarez.

Nothing was stolen, which irked Smith even more.

“You could’ve at least stole some change or something, make it seem like you’re trying,” he said.

The same thing happened to Logan Square resident Ashley Lawrence in recent weeks.

Lawrence parked her 2009 Jeep Patriot near her home at Whipple Street and Palmer Square and the next morning she discovered her windows smashed — but nothing stolen.

“It’s a very uneasy feeling thinking that you can park your car in front of your house in your neighborhood and you wake up and someone messed with it. It’s a very, very uneasy feeling,” Lawrence said.

Some have experienced two or three break-ins.

Ashley Wiziecki, general manager at Park & Field at 3509 W. Fullerton Ave., is one such victim. Wiziecki’s Jeep was broken into twice on St. Louis Avenue, near the bar/restaurant where she works. The most recent break-in happened Sept. 23 sometime between 7-7:30 p.m., she said.

The first break-in, which happened at the end of July, someone stole Wiziecki’s laptop, clothes and other personal belongings. The second break-in, which happened Sept. 23, someone stole Wiziecki’s replacement laptop and more personal belongings.

“I now refuse to park my vehicle anywhere, but in front of the restaurant directly where I can keep my eyes on it throughout my shift,” Wiziecki said in an email.

Almendarez, who runs the monthly wrestling show, estimates the area around the Logan Square Auditorium has seen at least 15 break-ins in the last year. He said he’s thinking about hiring a security guard to patrol the parking lot, where many of the break-ins have occurred.

“We put on these very entertaining and fun shows and at a certain point they’re going to associate it with vandalism to their cars rather than having a good night out,” he said.

“I don’t want to have to move, but if it comes to that, we’ll have to move out of the neighborhood.”

Some of the victims interviewed by Block Club filed police reports, and others didn’t. Those who did file reports said police officers told them there was nothing they could do beyond generate a report.

“They kinda shrugged their shoulders and were like, ‘It’s Chicago. What are you going to do? … It’s frustrating. I feel like this is not an acceptable answer,” Almendarez said.

Lawrence, who is from Florida, said she filed a police report immediately after discovering her damaged car.

An officer told her “unless there’s a dead body or there’s a gun involved they can’t do anything.”

“Where I’m from, I would’ve had a cop on the scene with me helping me out,” she said.

“I would like very much for the police to get more involved with petty crimes. I know it’s a big city with a lot of crime, but it would make me feel better if the cops were there.”

In an email, Chicago Police top spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said he was “disheartened to hear that the officers were dismissive.”

“[I] assure you that we take every crime incident in Chicago seriously,” he said.

Catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converters are also being swiped from cars in Logan Square. Neighbors are taking to social media to share their stories and commiserate with other victims.

Yesenia, a Logan Square resident who declined to give her last name for safety reasons, parked her 2018 Mitsubishi SUV at Belden Avenue and Kedzie Boulevard, near where she lives, on Oct. 1. The next morning the car made an “extremely loud” noise when she tried to start it.

Yesenia thought something was wrong with her car before she called the dealership and they told her to look underneath the car for a missing catalytic converter.

Sure enough, the expensive car part was gone.

Fortunately, Yesenia’s insurance paid for most of the $2,500 part, but Yesenia is worried another thief will strike.

“Now I’m terrified to park outside,” she said.

Thieves steal catalytic converters for the precious metals inside the car part. The metals can be sold for $150 at scrap yards or on the black market.

The converters take just seconds to saw off a car. Jeeps, Honda Elements and other SUVs that sit higher off the ground are often targeted.

Guglielmi, the police spokesman, said catalytic converter thefts are “difficult to combat,” but “every incident should be reported to police so detectives can establish crime patterns and set up prevention missions to target widespread and related incidents.”

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