Thieves targeting tourists at Chicago’s best known hotels

CHICAGO -- While thefts from inside hotel rooms are rare, WGN Investigates found more than 230 police reports filed over the last two years at eight of Chicago’s best known hotels. They detail reports of robberies, burglaries, theft and identity theft.

Thieves are targeting tourists visiting Chicago’s best known hotels.

“This looked like an inside job because there was no sign of forced entry and nothing else was rummaged through the room,” Amy Moody said.

She and her husband spent a night at the Park Hyatt hotel shortly after Christmas. They say shortly after they checked-in they went to the spa for appointments. That’s when someone allegedly went into their room and stole Moody’s purse and all of its contents.

“I think somebody saw I had this specific bag, we were staying in this room, and we were going to be out of the room at this certain time,” Moody said.

Within a few hours Moody began receiving fraud alerts indicating her credit card was being used all over town.

WGN Investigates found the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive had the most reported problems among Chicago's best known hotels: 66 cases over a two year period. That was followed by the Palmer House with 63 incidents, The Drake with 33, Hyatt McCormick Place with 22 and the Trump Hotel with 20 reports filed. The swanky Four Seasons and Peninsula hotels each had less than 10 burglary, theft and robbery reports during the two year period WGN examined.

“These incidents represent a small minority of stays,” a Hyatt spokesperson told WGN. “Hyatt Regency Chicago’s 2,019 guestrooms are the most of any hotel in the city, and it also hosts thousands of events in its meeting spaces each year.”

Other hotel reps said crimes committed at adjoining parking structures can inflate their numbers.

When items are stolen from rooms Illinois law limits the amount for which the hotel may be on the hook. The Illinois Innkeepers Protection Act limits liability to just $250 – regardless of whether a guests’ loss was caused by “theft, fault or negligence of the hotel.” Liability goes up to a maximum of $500 if guests’ items go missing from the hotel’s safe.

Security experts say hotel management fears bad reviews almost as much as they do crime.

“The good part is even when stuff happens most hotels are prepared to deal with it,” said hotel security consultant Randy Herring.

He said managers of higher end properties will often work with guests to compensate them for provable losses. Hotels deploy security cameras, key card access and other means to discourage crime.

“If you see certain people lingering in unauthorized areas, that’s a bad sign,” Herring said. “If you see someone coming into a hotel, not checking in, not using the restaurant or they’re with someone else outside – we can’t profile – but we know who in the hotel, we know who are guests and who are not guests.”

The Moody’s say Park Hyatt security checked keycard logs and determined the only person who accessed their room was a housekeeper who had been with the hotel for a decade and had no prior problems. A Park Hyatt spokesperson called this an “isolated incident.” Nonetheless, after a few weeks of back and forth the Park Hyatt reimbursed Moody for her purse and its contents.

“You’re just really upset and you sort of blame yourself at first. Then you realize: I didn’t really do anything wrong here,” Moody said. “I left my purse in a secure room with the intent to just have enjoyable evening and then when you come back and it’s stolen you definitely you’ve been violated.”