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Phony Cop Targets Hispanics

A man impersonating a Chicago police officer appears to be targeting Hispanics - possibly recent immigrants - as he shakes them down and robs them, authorities said.

Police have put out a community alert for the man, who officials say is suspected of having committed as many as 11 armed robberies since June, including five so far this month alone, in neighborhoods ranging from the North Side to the Southwest Side.

Some of the imposter's victims could be undocumented immigrants who may be afraid of contacting the authorities, police said.

"I need to get the message out there to the Spanish-speaking community the Chicago police are not the immigration service," police Cmdr. Daniel Alvarado said at a news conference today to discuss the manhunt.

The suspect, Alvarado said, "is preying primarily on immigrants who speak Spanish and are not likely to file a complaint. We need their help in coming forward with any information they have so we can get a composite on this individual (and) perhaps identify him and bring him to justice."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Area 5 detectives at (312) 746-8282.

The suspect has been described as driving a white Chevrolet Astro van with a colored stripe, possibly red, yellow or brown, and with temporary Illinois license plates, police said.

The man typically is driving around between noon and 7:30 p.m. when he singles out people on foot and drives up to them, police said. He allegedly carries a police-type radio and sometimes is armed with a handgun or metal object.

The man identifies himself as a police officer and remains in his van while he removes the victim's wallet and cash, police said.

Police described the impersonator as 25 to 30 years old, 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 140 to 180 pounds and with short black hair or with a bald or shaved head.

Alvarado noted a real police officer carries a badge - a five-point star - and other official identification. If a person who is stopped is suspicious of an officer's identity, he or she should ask to go to a well-lighted area and have the officer call a supervisor, Alvarado said.

WGN-Ch. 9 contributed to this story.

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