The recent rise in flash mob retail thefts and violent crime has hit home on North Michigan Avenue and at other iconic Chicago destinations, deterring holiday shopping and tourism as the city tries to emerge from nearly two years of pandemic stasis.

From retailers and restaurants to hotels, businesses are beefing up security and seeking help from law enforcement as visitors stay away in droves, alarmed by the confluence of organized crime and seemingly random assaults plaguing even once “safe” locales like the Magnificent Mile.

“People are paying attention to this,” said Kimberly Bares, president and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association, a private membership organization focused on promoting the shopping district along North Michigan Avenue. “If there is an incident or concern about an incident, people are choosing not to come downtown.”

Chicago has long grappled with both the reality and perception of violence, from the days of Al Capone to the city’s more recent image as a center of gun violence. But that picture was always painted as a split-screen, with the city’s gleaming downtown, lakefront, and shopping meccas such as North Michigan Avenue seen as somehow insulated from criminal activity.

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