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Law enforcement officials are cautioning residents to be extra vigilant in the wake of a surge in burglaries attributed to South American crime syndicates. This new and more dangerous burglary threat has been making headlines across the nation, hitting affluent neighborhoods in Florida, New York, New Jersey, California, and other states.

They Are Trained & Sophisticated

These burglars, who are commonly referred to as “South American theft groups,” “Chilean tourist burglars,” or “crime tourists,” are highly trained and sophisticated. They travel to the United States on 90-day travel visas after being equipped and trained in their home country. Armed with expertise and tools, these groups have ravaged affluent neighborhoods, hitting as many as 10, 15, or 20 homes in a single area. Victims have reported losing staggering amounts of cash and jewelry, some as much as a quarter of a million dollars or more. Although police and sheriff departments have managed to capture a few individuals, these arrests have not slowed down the groups’ attacks.

Many homeowners, who believed they had taken all the necessary precautions, have been shocked to find their homes ransacked after returning from a vacation or a simple dinner out. It’s important not to assume that living in an upscale, even gated community provides immunity from these burglars, as they specifically target such areas.

Typically working in groups of three to six, these burglars case a neighborhood and often enter homes through windows or sliding glass doors between 6 pm and midnight when residents are away. If a home has a second floor, they will usually enter there, where most do not have sensors. Security footage has captured multiple groups wearing hats, hooded sweatshirts, face coverings, gloves, backpacks, and carrying flashlights. These individuals are generally younger and not very large. To blend in with the neighborhood, they often travel in rented high-end cars, SUVs, or minivans.

The burglars are breaking into or stealing lower quality safes, often hitting homes next to vacant lots, slopes, open spaces, or golf courses. One group has been reported to have burglarized over 100 private homes, stealing cash, jewelry, watches, designer handbags, and clothing. They move from city to city, fence their loot, and send their ill-gotten gains back home. After a successful run of burglaries, they will return to Chile, only to repeat the cycle.

Targeting Wealthy Neighborhoods

Southern California has been hit particularly hard by these groups. The Huntington Harbor neighborhood of Huntington Beach saw nearly 30 break-ins, while the Talega neighborhood of San Clemente had 15 burglaries, and there were 17 in the Alessandro Heights, Hawarden Hills, and Mission Grove neighborhoods of Riverside.

This is not just happening in the United States but is also taking place on three continents, according to Vanity Fair.

“It’s a terrible feeling to know somebody has been in your space,” said one victim.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA, which grants “virtually automatic” 90-day visa waivers to member countries’ citizens, has been referenced as having enabled this type of crime in the United States. The FBI has even established a task force specifically dedicated to this crime ring.[5]

Tips from Law Enforcement

To protect yourself and your home, law enforcement officials offer the following tips:

  • Make your home look occupied when gone. Put interior lights on timers. Stop the mail and paper delivery when traveling.
  • Consider getting a FakeTV device that simulates a TV and flashes lights to make it appear as though someone is home. These can be set to turn on at specific times.
  • Lock all outside doors and windows, including property gates, before you leave or go to bed.
  • Consider installing a security system, and if you already have one, make sure alarms and cameras are working properly and not obstructed. Consider glass break alarms.
  • Bolt safes to steel or a cement slab.
  • Ensure your safe is of higher quality, not easily pried open. It needs to have third party security verification, ie Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Get to know your neighbors and let them know when you will be away for an extended time.
  • Do not share your plans to be away on social media.
  • Consider getting a monitored alarm system with audible warnings to scare intruders away. If you have a second-story home, make sure the alarm system is installed upstairs, too.
Shop Ready To Ship Safes

A good quality safe is your last line of defense. This new class of burglars is getting through even the most sophisticated alarm systems. If they get into your house, you want to make sure you have a safe that provides true security. Just because the box says “Safe” doesn’t mean it’s going to provide the protection you need. At a minimum look for a safe that has been independently verified by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), as all Casoro safes have been.

With nearly 30 years in the safe business we can help you select the right safe for your needs. Contact Us for expert advice and white glove service from start to finish. It’s a decision you won’t regret!

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