By Bob Uphues
New surveillance cameras installed at the Riverside Metra station in the village's downtown led to the arrest of a man who reportedly has been stealing bicycles at commuter rail stations all over the Chicago area.
The new high-definition cameras recorded a theft that took place in downtown Riverside on Sept. 26, and images of the offender broadcast to regional police led Clarendon Hills police to identify a suspect within an hour of that bulletin, according to Riverside police.
Michael S. Kovac, 52, was taken into custody at his home in Aurora the same day. Detectives reported finding other bicycles at the residence, including ones reported stolen out of Winnetka and Western Springs.
Kovac reportedly told police he stole the Riverside bicycle on Sept. 26 and then rode it to Western Springs, where he dumped it for what he termed "a better bike." Police recovered the Riverside bicycle in Western Springs and returned it to its owner.
"This arrest was a direct result of the closed-circuit television cameras that are positioned around the train station at the Longcommon Road crossing in Riverside," said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release. "These high-end HD cameras were able to pick up the offender, and officers were quickly able to put a wanted poster out and he was identified."
Cameras in Riverside reportedly captured Kovac using bolt cutters, which he took out of a backpack he was carrying, to cut the chain securing the bike to the rack. He then put the bolt cutters, as well as the cut chain and lock, into his backpack before riding away.
At the time of his arrest, Kovac was on parole from Lawrenceville Correctional Center for a 2017 theft conviction out of DuPage County. He has eight prior convictions for offenses including theft and burglary going back to 1992.
Criminal sexual abuse
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office approved one count of felony criminal sexual abuse against 34-year-old Joel Garcia, of North Riverside, for allegedly forcibly kissing an 18-year-old woman, pulling down the top of her dress and kissing her breasts during an incident at a party in North Riverside on the night of Sept. 22.
The victim told police that Garcia had just exited the bathroom when he engaged her in conversation and then forced himself on her. The victim reportedly was able to pull away and entered the bathroom, trying to shut the door behind her. However, Garcia allegedly stopped her from closing the door with his hand and told her not to tell anyone what happened.
According to the police report, the victim waited inside the bathroom until she was sure Garcia was gone and then left the party. She reported the incident to police that night and police arrested Garcia at his North Riverside home.
He reportedly told police the kissing was consensual and denied he forced himself on the victim.
North Riverside police responded to the parking lot of Charter Fitness, 1770 Harlem Ave., on Sept. 25 after a 37-year-old North Riverside woman called to report that someone had broken into her vehicle while she was working out.
The victim told police she parked the car around 8:10 p.m., when she came out about 25 minutes later, she discovered that the driver's side window was shattered and several items were missing from the vehicle, including a black Planet Fitness gym bag containing clothing and toiletries. Also missing was a purse containing credit and debit cards as well as a backpack containing a Dell laptop computer.
One of the victim's credit cards already had been used to purchase $115 in merchandise at the 7-Eleven at Harlem and 26th Street, while another had been used to make a $15 purchase at the Citgo station at Harlem Avenue and Longcommon Road.
Surveillance camera video reportedly showed two men getting out of a Nissan Altima and using the credit cards at Citgo. The vehicle and suspects reportedly appeared to be the same as other recent smash-and-grab burglaries in the Charter Fitness lot, police reported.
A Brookfield resident went to police on Sept. 27 to report that someone had gained access to her Social Security number and had opened credit card accounts in her maiden name, making more than $1,000 in fraudulent transactions at Kohl's and Victoria's Secret.
In addition, the victim said, applications for credit cards at more than a half dozen more stores using her Social Security number were denied.
These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, Sept. 23-29 and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.
— Compiled by Bob Uphues