Of course the Tribune Reporter Heywood Hoffman purposely OMITTED THE RACE OF THE OFFENDERS even though this is a CRIME ALERT...
A group of three or four young BLACK men has been operating a cell phone theft scam at restaurants in the Loop and Near North Side, police said today in a business alert.
Three of the robberies took place in less than three hours on Wednesday.
The group members enter a restaurant, and when spotting a diner's cell phone on the table they approach and present fliers claiming they are raising money for their basketball team, police said.
The members place a flier atop the victim's cell phone while talking, then when retrieving the flier grab the cell phone as well, police said in the alert.
The similar robberies have taken place at 4:40 p.m. on Dec. 31 on the 300 block of North Michigan Avenue, 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 2 on the 600 block of North Fairbanks Court, 6:10 p.m. Jan. 2 on the 100 block of North Wabash Avenue and 8:40 p.m. Jan 2 on the 400 block of East Ontario Street.
In one of the robberies a group member asked restaurant staff for a glass of water before another member grabbed a cell phone and fled, police said.
Witness accounts have varied, but police said in general the suspects are described as three or four males, age 14-25, working together. They have been seen getting into a tan 4-door hardtop, possibly "Buick-style," police said.
The alert warns victims not to chase a robber but to take careful note of any unique physical characteristics -- like scars or a limp -- and call police immediately. If there are other witnesses, request contact information.
Anyone with information is asked to call Area Central detectives at 312-747-8380.