Chesterton Tribune



CPD: Downtown businesses fall victim to distract-and-steal scam

Back To Front Page


Employees of both Flying Mermaids and Aspen & Ash--in adjacent suites in the commercial building at 206 S. Calumet Road--were victims of theft on Wednesday, Sept. 11, in a distract-and-pilfer scam perpetrated by a pair of women, Chesterton Police said.

Those women were also observed entering a number of shops along Broadway the same day, probably casing the joints, police said.

According to police, shortly before 12 p.m. the suspects entered Flying Mermaids and were “immediately ‘chatty,’” indicating that they were shopping for a wedding gift and dresses. “They had a lot of questions about sizes,” the employee advised police, and at some point one of the suspects made an inquiry about merchandise at the east end of the store, asking the employee to accompany her there.

The employee did, while the other suspect remained browsing near the cash register, where the employee typically leaves her purse.

The two suspects then left the store without buying anything, and--feeling that “something wasn’t quite right”--the employee checked her purse and discovered her wallet was gone. Later in the day an attempt was made to use one of her credit cards at the Walmart in Portage but the transaction was declined, possibly because of the high dollar amount, police said: $900.

Then, after leaving Flying Mermaids, the two entered Aspen & Ash, where they pulled the same job: “As soon as they entered they were conversational and started asking questions about buying a gift for an upcoming wedding,” police said. “She said the ladies were picking up many items and were overwhelming her with questions.”

Once again, one of the two suspects “went to the back of the store and inquired on a price,” while the other remained near the counter. “The ladies looked around for another moment or so, then left the store without purchasing anything.”

At that point the Aspen & Ash employee received a call from the Flying Mermaids employee, and was told to check her purse. She did, and found her driver’s license and three bank cards missing from her wallet. About 20 minutes later, she received a text from her bank asking whether an $815.89 purchase on her account at the Portage Walmart was legitimate. “By the time she replied, the debit was already posted,” police said. “She is working with (the bank’s) fraud division to have that charge reversed.”

Two other transactions were declined: one in the amount of $904.38, the other in the amount of $815.89.

The suspects were described as black females, in their thirties, both heavy set with short hair, police said. One was wearing a bright orange dress and the other a dark-colored dress.

Following the reports of the back-to-back thefts, a CPD officer canvassed the Downtown business district, warning shopkeepers about the scam. “That officer said that the proprietors of Chelle’s, The Flower Cart, (O’Gara and Wilson’s) book store, and Spike & Buddy’s all saw them,” police said. “In all four of those stores, the ladies walked in and pretty much walked right out. They only conversed with the owner of Chelle’s and that was limited to something like, ‘You don’t seem to have anything in our size.”

“It is possible they were quickly sizing things up to see if they might be able to run their scam and left if they didn’t see an easy ‘mark,’ police said.

Burns Harbor Town Council approves vendor audit and asset management policies


The Burns Harbor Town Council approved two new plans to keep track of municipal spending at its meeting Wednesday: an asset management policy and a vendor audit policy.

Council member Toni Biancardi reported she and Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan worked together to form the two policies.

Biancardi said each Department will create a list of assets worth more than $5,000, with a provided template, that tells the name of the asset, its value, and its category. Twice a year department heads will have the chance to add or remove items from the list. Down the line, Departments will be asked to estimate end-of-life for each asset so the Town can better plan for replacing big ticket items.

The new vendor audit policy dictates that the Town keep a list of approved vendors that have done work in Burns Harbor before, and all Departments should use a pre-approved vendor whenever possible. New vendors must be approved by the Town Council. Vendors not used for two years will fall off the list. From the list, a preferred vendor will be chosen among approved vendors who provide the same service.

Census Complete Count Committee

Burns Harbor will participate in a regional Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census because it’s estimated that only 80 percent of Burns Harbor residents were counted in 2010.

The Committee will focus on educating residents on the importance of the Census and the benefits of being counted. Jordan said the Town misses out on approximately $8,000 in federal funding for every person who goes uncounted in the Census. Children are likely one of the most missed groups, due to confusion about where they should be counted if they spend time in separate homes.


Political campaign signs that went up Sept. 6 or later are out legally, per a State law that changed only a couple years ago. Jordan reported Burns Harbor Town Code has not been updated to reflect the law that allows campaign signs to be displayed beginning 60 days before an election.

Town Code only allows the signage to go up 30 days prior to an election, but State law supersedes it, according to Town Attorney Clay Patton. Signs must be taken down within 10 days after the election.

Melton reported the square turnaround at the end of the alley behind Burns Boulevard was excavated and patched. The parking lot and roads at Lakeland Park were also paved and striped.

Biancardi noted that there have been a lot of complaints about North Babcock Road, which is shared with Town of Porter. North Babcock is on Porter’s list of paving projects for this year, and the Town will reach out to find out when it will be finished.

The beach at Lakeland Park is now closed for the season. Fall Fest is coming up at Lakeland from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 5. Anyone interested in being a stop in the Trunk-or-Treat can sign up on the Burns Harbor Park Department Facebook. Residents are reminded that the Arts and Crafts building is still available to rent year-round.

Other Business

Council President Nick Loving began the meeting with a moment of silence in recognition of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Loving said the attacks were the defining event of his generation, and though he’ll never forget how he felt the day it happened, he’ll also never forget the resilience and togetherness of Sept. 12, 2001.

No one spoke in a public hearing for the 2020 budget. The Council approved budget appropriation transfers for the Street, Park, Fire, and Building departments.

The Council approved on second reading an ordinance setting up guidelines for conflicts of interest in the building department. The ordinance was required following a change in state law.

No one spoke for or against a $10,000 additional appropriation for the Stormwater Department. Jordan said the reason for the additional is the Department taking on a large project on the Old Porter Road lift station that they might need extra money for. The Council approved it.

The Council suspended its rules and conducted both a first and second reading in the same night to pass an ordinance to amend the use of the Fire Non-reverting Ambulance Fund so that fund can be used directly for the costs of Town ambulance service.

The Council passed a proclamation for National Suicide Prevention Month. Council member Kevin Tracy read the proclamation in its entirety and urged people to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles and encouraged them to reach out to others who may be struggling.


Posted 9/18/2019






Search This Site:

Custom Search