Immigrant Pickpocket Gangs Targeting Chicago Pride Parade?
07/09/2024
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Here’s a crime story from CWB Chicago:

Pickpockets ravaged Pride Fest and Pride Parade, with 31 thefts reported in one evening

By Tim Hecke, CWBChicago,July 9, 2024

CHICAGO — Pickpocket crews ran rampant during the annual Chicago Pride festivities in Boystown last month, police records show. At least 57 people reported having phones or wallets stolen while they attended the Pride Fest weekend or the annual Pride Parade.

On Saturday, June 22, alone, police reported an incredible 31 thefts within and immediately adjacent to Pride Fest. Even more astounding, police reported 25 of those 31 thefts in less than three hours, beginning around 7 p.m.

A CWBChicago reader was one of the unfortunate victims.

“I just bought a new one at the store and they said I was the 5th person coming in today with the same story,” the Pride Fest reveler told us last month. 

The thefts on that Saturday evening ground to a halt after Chicago police officers arrested a Florida man who allegedly stole a phone from a 42-year-old man in the 3700 block of North Halsted, records show.

Juan Pablo Giraldo Ruiz, 40, of Orland, [Sic, presumably Orlando] reached into the man’s pocket, took the phone, and handed it off to an accomplice who got away, according to a CPD arrest report. Officers who searched Ruiz found “multiple credit cards that did not belong to [him]… and another cell phone,” the report said.

He was released from police custody after being charged with misdemeanor theft. 

The second day of Pride Fest saw only three reported phone and wallet thefts.

Another, smaller wave of thefts popped up on the Boystown nightlife strip early on June 29 and 30. We found seven total cases filed during those time periods. Six more cases were reported along the Halsted strip during and immediately after the Chicago Pride Parade. We found five more cases reported on Halsted that evening.

Organized theft crews, usually operated by people from out of state, have targeted Pride Fest, the Pride Parade, and other major events like Lollapalooza since at least 2019. However, this year’s Pride Fest tally exceeds what we’ve seen in other years.

That link on "usually operated by people from out of state," goes to a lot of previous CWBChicago pickpocket ring stories, featuring people with Spanish last names, like the Florida man above.

The story Lollapalooza phone theft crew busted by undercover Chicago cops, prosecutors say, from  August 1, 2022, features "Arceli Quinones, 32, Ximena Rodriguez, 24, and Juan Ramirez, 25, all of Los Angeles."

The four people accused of operating a phone theft ring at Lollapalooza 2022 are (L to R): Antony Bardales, Arceli Quinones, Juan Ramirez, and Ximena Rodriguez. | CPD; @chicagosmayor via Twitter

While there are American criminals with Spanish names in both L.A. and Orlando, this kind of organized ring is a South American thing.

See, for example, Trained in South America : Horde of Skilled Thieves Frustrates Police in U.S. [by LONN JOHNSTON, LA Times, April 5, 1989], which mentions the School of the Seven Bells in Colombia, where pickpockets learn their trade.

You can see the techniques of distraction and passing off the wallet to an accomplice, and practicing on a dummy with tiny bells attached in the trailer, below of the 1973 James Coburn movie Harry In Your Pocket:

The only real difference between that and the crews operating in Chicago is that for Hollywood’s narrative purposes, all the criminals are really, really white. It’s still a good movie, though; you can watch the whole thing below:

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