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Off-duty officer helps nab mail truck robber

At left Damien Bolden an off-duty Chicago Police officer spotted two men stealing mail from postal truck. Calling 911 provide

At left, Damien Bolden, an off-duty Chicago Police officer, spotted two men stealing mail from a postal truck. Calling 911 to provide details of the incident, one of the suspects was later apprehended by on-duty officer Jeffrey Bertrand, at right. Along with District Commander Barbara West, they leave a news conference after discussing the incident at the Austin 15th District headquarters on December 1, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 3, 2013 10:56AM

There’s an extensive criminal ring targeting delivery and mail trucks full of potentially expensive holiday packages, authorities said. And at least one man is behind bars thanks to an off-duty Chicago Police officer.

Austin District Police Officer Damien Bolden was driving to work Friday afternoon when he noticed two men, neither dressed in postal service uniforms, breaking into a mail truck in the 5900 block of West Fulton Boulevard.

Bolden said he waited 30 seconds as the men tossed trays of letters, magazines and packages into a black Suburban, then called 911 and followed the SUV for about five minutes.

Officer Jeffrey Bertrand found the SUV in the 900 block of Parkside. That’s where one of the men got out and ran. The other saw the squad and panicked.

“When we pulled up where the truck was parked, we were coming the wrong way down a one-way street and we saw the offender standing and shuffling the mail out of the truck,” Bertrand said.

Darrick Smith, 43, of the 7300 block of Harvard Avenue, was charged with one count of burglary.

Police on Saturday said Smith is part of a criminal ring targeting delivery trucks, and there are “several” other burglars wanted in the investigation.

Austin District Commander Barbara West said cops are always on the lookout during the holiday season, especially for trucks delivering expensive cargo.

Bolden spoke humbly about the experience, saying criminal chases before work without a badge or gun is “just part of my job.”

“Just because we’re off duty doesn’t mean we stop working,” Bolden said. “We still are doing certain things in the area. I think we owe the City of Chicago to act on those things.”

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