Leaving home? Keep it to yourself.
In the modern turmoil of daily life, there’s another worry: South American Theft Groups who target upscale homes.
The New Castle County Division of Police and other law enforcement partners are warning Delaware residents about a nationwide trend of residential burglaries by groups known as “South American Theft Groups” or “Crime Tourists,” according to a Friday press release.
The highly organized criminals travel from state to state burglarizing homes and stealing from them.
They use radios, disguises, lookouts and surveillance to case potential homes and neighborhoods.
Once they act, the group moves fast, stealing jewelry, watches, designer merchandise, cash and gold bars, the press release said.
They typically ship the stolen goods back to their home countries or try to sell them before they leave the country.
New Castle Police have made several arrests of people in these groups but are still seeking some people wanted for outstanding warrants.
The theft rings often are composed of Chilean or Columbian nationals, the release said.
The groups are targeting expensive homes and homes owned by Asian Americans, the press release said.
Theft prevention tips
New Castle Police recommend that home owners take additional steps to secure their property and personal belongings:
1. Consult with your homeowner’s association on the installation of automated license plate readers at the entrance/exit of neighborhoods.
2. Secure doors and windows. Install solid exterior doors with deadbolt locks and reinforced frames. Use high-quality locks on all doors and consider upgrading to smart locks for added security. Install window locks on all accessible windows and reinforce glass with security film or laminates.
3. Install a comprehensive home security system that includes burglar alarms, motion sensors and security cameras. Display signs or stickers indicating the presence of a security system, which can act as a deterrent.
4. Install motion-sensor lights around the perimeter of your home, particularly near entry points. Ensure that pathways, entrances and dark areas are well-lit to minimize hiding spots for potential burglars.
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5. Join or establish a neighborhood watch program to create a sense of community and collective security. Communicate with your neighbors, report suspicious activities and look out for one another.
6. Keep valuable items, such as jewelry, cash and important documents, in a secure safe or lockbox. Avoid leaving valuable items in plain sight through windows or in easily accessible areas.
7. Maintain a well-kept appearance to deter potential burglars. Use timers for lights and electronic devices to create the illusion of occupancy when you’re away.
8. Avoid sharing vacation plans or posting about being away from home on social media. Burglars can exploit this information to target unoccupied houses.
9. Install security bars or grilles on vulnerable entry points, such as basement windows or sliding doors. Consider reinforcing doors with door jammers or security plates to prevent forced entry.
10. Be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activities to local authorities. Consider installing surveillance cameras to monitor and record activities around your property.
11. Report suspicious persons and vehicles to 9-1-1.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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