An ongoing pattern of residential burglaries has emerged in Hyde Park over the past month and a half. Between January 21 and March 4, one or multiple offenders broke into at least 15 neighborhood apartments and stole a range of goods, including televisions, computers, cameras, jewelry, and money.
The incidents occurred mainly during the daytime, while residents were away from their homes.
"We don't know if it's one individual or more who is responsible for these burglaries," said Bob Richards, law enforcement director of the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), a non-profit organization that charts community crime.
"We think there might be a vehicle involved, since there is such a volume of items taken. It would be difficult to walk down the street with all this stuff and not seem suspicious," Richards added.
In one of the burglaries, a victim directly confronted a male offender.
On February 27 at 11:45 a.m., a woman was at her home on the 5400 block of South University Avenue when she heard a noise in another part of her apartment. When she went to investigate, she found an unknown man in her apartment holding her camera.
He immediately fled out the back door.
The offender was described as a black male, between the ages of 30 and 35, approximately five-foot-six, and 170 to 180 pounds. He had black hair and a dark complexion, and was wearing a dark blue jacket and dark pants.
Six of the 15 burglaries occurred on the 5700- and 5800-blocks of South Blackstone Avenue. Four apartments on the 5700-block of South Blackstone were burglarized on March 4.
In response to the string of burglaries on South Blackstone, the University increased its police presence there, according to Rudy Nimocks, executive director of the University police department.
The University Police Department is collaborating with the city police force to apprehend the perpetrators, according to Nimocks. "There's been a considerable amount of our resources spent looking for the person," he said.
Though Nimocks was not sure how many of the burglary victims are affiliated with the University, he stressed the University police force's commitment to keeping the community safe.
"Any kind of pattern of criminality is a concern for the University," Nimocks said.
According to Richards, the perpetrator(s) entered the apartments through back windows or doors, typically cutting through kitchen and bathroom screen windows or going through unlocked glass windows.
If an offender found the windows on the ground floor locked, he often advanced to the second or third floor apartments and tried the windows there, according to Richards.
"Rather than break glass and risk getting hurt or caught, they'll just move to the next apartment," he said.
In some instances, however, the offender(s) broke windows or the glass on doors to gain entry.
In each incident, the burglar(s) exited through the rear door of the apartment.
A similar burglary spree occurred in Hyde Park during August and September 2002. Over 30 burglaries occurred, until one individual was eventually caught and charged with six of the incidents.
The offender had been released from a state penitentiary earlier that month.
In the past, burglars have been caught because of attentive neighbors, Richards said.
"Someone sees the perpetrator carrying items down a street or an alley, like computer parts or electronics, and acting suspiciously. They call the police, the police come and investigate, and the perpetrator is apprehended," he said.
Richards is confident that this series of burglaries will end soon. "In years past, we've had very good success in taking these perpetrators into custody," he said. "If they persist, they're going to get caught."
According to Richards, despite this new burglary pattern, crime in Hyde Park has generally decreased.
In the past five years, the overall crime rate in the neighborhood has dropped by 14 percent, according to SECC statistics. During this time period, property crimes dropped 12 percent and robberies dropped 10 percent.