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West Town Area Neighbors Band Together To Catch Man Suspected In Years' Worth Of Package Thefts

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Neighbors in a community on the cusp of Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village banded together to stop an accused thief.

The thief is suspected of stealing packages from porches in the neighborhood for years. CBS 2's Jackie Kostek talked Monday to some of the neighbors who held the man until police arrived.

Several neighbors told me a specific package thief has been working the neighborhood for upwards of two years. They see him often and have caught him on surveillance cameras but, actually catching him was another thing. That was until last week.

"We have had packages stolen by him," said Eric Berki.

Berki has only lived on the 2600 block of West Thomas Street, off Rockwell Street, for a month. But already, he is well aware of the man he describes as the "famous package thief."

But seeing surveillance footage and warnings posted to neighborhood groups is one thing.

"Looking outside my window and seeing it – it was like a shock," Berki said.

Outside his window, Berki found the neighborhood's real-life Grinch on the ground, being physically held down by fed-up neighbors until police arrived.

"It was kind of a sense of like accomplishment from my neighbors when looking at them, because I know it's been a problem for a while," he said.

Neighbors say it all started around 4 p.m. last Wednesday when they saw the man walking the neighborhood with a trash can. They believed the trash can was full of items he stole.

One neighbor, who didn't want to go on camera, said he "called him out on it" and positioned himself between the alleged thief and the trash can. That is when police say 49-year-old suspect Luis Ruiz shoved that neighbor, but he somehow ended up on the ground himself.

Police arrested Ruiz and charged him with battery. While he is not currently being investigated for theft, police say he is a convicted felon and has a criminal history involving drugs and theft.

A public arrest record shows Ruiz has been charged with theft at least twice, dating back to 2019.

Another neighbor, David Sanchez, said the community's actions sent a pretty clear message to would-be package thieves.

"Stop doing it," Sanchez said, "because you're going to get caught."

That is because on this block, neighbors not only talk to each other but watch.

"Neighbors have like one eye open about that," Sanchez said. "So whenever I even look at my mailbox, as you saw, they're looking at me."

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