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Hucksters try to cash in on community fear
By Alex Rodriguez | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:58 PM

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Originally published Jan. 17, 1993

Opportunists have seized on the fast-food restaurant massacre in Palatine as a chance to hawk security devices ranging from under-the-counter panic buttons to tear gas sprays.

Just two days after the bodies of seven people were found at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine, store owner Ed Smith was visited by several salesmen selling different types of security devices.

"They started early Monday morning," said Smith, who owns the Parcel Service Center, a package delivery and private mail service located in a strip shopping center behind the Brown's. "You just have to learn to not pay any attention to them."

Residents and store owners have been on edge since Jan. 8, when the murders were discovered two of the victims were the restaurant's owners, the rest were employees.

Police have formed a massive investigative task force to probe the murders. However, no arrests have been made yet and police are saying little about what evidence or leads they have gathered.

Smith said some salesmen were selling self-defense sprays like Mace, rear- and front-door alarm systems, and hidden panic buttons to alert police in the event of a robbery. Carol DeSalvo, co-owner of About Hair, a beauty salon in the same shopping center with Smith's shop, said someone came by trying to sell her a security system Monday.

"It's very opportunistic," DeSalvo said. "I guess that's human nature. I just don't like someone pushing me into something."

The itch to capitalize on the tragedy apparently hasn't let up. Parents who attended a police seminar on security Saturday found fliers attached to their cars advertising a self-defense spray that uses red pepper to combat attackers.

During that seminar, Palatine Chamber of Commerce President Karen Kubek told parents that some salesmen are telling store owners their products have been endorsed by the Palatine Chamber of Commerce, which is not true.

"I'm here to tell you the Palatine Chamber of Commerce does not endorse any products or services," Kubek said. "We are not, in any way, going to capitalize on this incident."