Cell phone thieves targeting Near North Side restaurants, police say

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CHICAGO — A group of cellphone thieves is targeting diners at Near North Side restaurants, police said.

In nine separate incidents reported over the past two weeks, thieves entered restaurants under the guise of collecting money for a fundraiser, according to the Chicago Police Department.

The thieves then distracted customers with flyers before grabbing victims’ cellphones and running outside, police said.

The most recent incidents occurred during afternoon hours:

  • on Jan. 21 in the 400 block of East Illinois Street
  • on Jan. 21 in the 1000 block of West North Avenue
  • on Jan. 21 in the 1100 block of West North Avenue
  • on Jan. 21 in the 200 block of East Ontario Street
  • on Jan. 21 in the 600 block of North Dearborn Street
  • on Feb. 2 in the 300 block of West Hubbard Street
  • on Feb. 2 in the 1400 block of North Wells Street
  • on Feb. 2 in the first block of East Delaware Place
  • on Feb. 3 in the 600 block of North Wells Street.

The owner of Bar Cargo said his restaurant at 605 N. Wells St. was spared this time, but targeted repeatedly last summer.

“It's troubling and disturbing,” Anthony Stefani said. “It's such a great neighborhood. Obviously, you have so many restaurants, tourists and locals alike — it's somewhere you should feel comfortable going to hang out.”

One of the recent thefts happened Saturday at Le Pain Quotidien, 10 E. Delaware Pl. The store's manager wouldn't speak on camera, but did say the store had been targeted in the past. According to staffers, thieves in those incidents set down a flyer on top of a victim's cellphone — and then picked up both the phone and piece of paper before fleeing.

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