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Masked thieves ransack Gold Coast Prada store; expert says such crimes affect everyone

Robbers hit Gold Coast Prada store
Robbers hit Gold Coast Prada store 02:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of men in gloves and full face masks ransacked the Prada store in the middle of a busy day in Chicago's prime shopping district on Sunday.

It's part of troubling crime trend, as CBS 2 has tracked a nearly 30% vacancy rate along the Magnificent Mile.

CBS 2's Tara Molina has been investigating these issues for years.

A Chicago police officer radioed for help during the robbery in progress shortly before 1 p.m. on Sunday at the Prada store near Rush and Oak streets, just off the Mag Mile.

"They have guns, and there are about 4 or 5 of them," the officer said. "Four-door blue Camry. No plates. Can somebody get to the Prada store? Because we haven't been over there."

Police said a group of at least six sped off towards Michigan Avenue in the stolen Camry, making off with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Investigators are still looking for them.

Retail experts said crimes like this one are making a bigger impact than you think.

"It has not slowed down," said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. "Unfortunately, you go into some stores, and you now have much of the store behind plexiglass doors."

Karr was a champion of the effort to crack down on all aspects of organized retail crime statewide; the state's retail theft law. It's legislation CBS 2 has tracked for years, cracking down on 3rd party sellers, giving new powers to the Illinois Attorney General's office to pursue these crimes while expanding the reach of county state's attorneys' offices.

"So for example, if someone steals something in Cook County, and fences it in DuPage County, or stores it in Lake County, and one of those prosecutors comes across that crime, they can charge for the entire crime scheme. They essentially own it, if you will," Karr said.

But with teeth just added to the law on Jan. 1, Karr said it's still too early to see a major impact.

"It takes time to put these things in place," he said.

With crimes like this one contributing to the 28% vacancy rate on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, it's a problem impacting everyone.

"Sales tax is the second largest generator of revenue for local government. So the services we all rely upon need that revenue, and if that revenue is not there because these items are being stolen, then the services we all rely upon are negatively impacted," Karr said. "It causes retailers that may be developing, or anyone looking to invest somewhere, where are they going to get the best return on their investment? And that may not be Chicago or cook county as we sit here today."

"We need prosecutorial enforcement. Particularly in Cook County. And I think it's not accidental that no matter where you look, wherever there has been lacks in prosecutorial practices, you see the biggest problems," Karr added.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office said, so far this year, they have reviewed 614 adult retail theft cases, and approved charges in 460 cases, or 75%. Of 347 cases prosecuted so far, 244 resulted in convictions, a 70% conviction rate.

As for juvenile retail theft cases, prosecutors said they have reviewed 99 cases, and approved charges in 30. So far, seven such cases have been disposed, and one has resulted in an adjudication of delinquency, the juvenile court equivalent of a criminal conviction, a 14% adjudication rate. 

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