Southern California law enforcement agencies are focusing on the trend of burglary tourism, where thieves travel internationally to the U.S. to burglarize homes, then return to their home country.
The Orange County Register reported these South American theft groups are often comprised of Chilean or Colombian nationals who operate as “‘Lanzas Internacionales,’ or international thieves in the Spanish-speaking world.”
Authorities say the thieves are professionals who surveil homes before breaking in when residents are away. They often bring heavy-duty tools to steal or break into safes that are bolted down or mounted.
“Some of these residential burglars have been recorded going through second-story homes,” said Officer Jessica Cuchilla with Huntington Beach Police. “In these instances, the reason why they’re going in through there is because people don’t install alarm systems on their second story.”
The thieves typically ship the items they steal back to their home countries or sell the items before leaving.
They’ve also been known to target affluent coastal neighborhoods as well as homes that border trails, golf courses and parks.
Authorities say some thieves obtain visas before arriving in the U.S., while others apply through a visa-waiver program that allows them to visit the U.S. for tourism or business without obtaining a visa within the first 90 days.
Experts recommend always bolting your home safe to the floor and investing in a heavier safe when possible.
General tips to prevent home burglaries:
Always lock doors when leaving, even if only for a moment.
Keep an eye out for suspicious people knocking on doors. They may be checking whether someone is home.
Good lighting is the best deterrent against crime, police say, so keep your front porch and exteriors well-lit.
If you spot a suspicious vehicle, write down the license plate.
Do not leave a name or ID tag attached to house keys. If lost or stolen, thieves can locate your home.
Never leave a house key hidden outside the home.
Keep garage doors locked and closed when not in use.
Keep trees and bushes well-trimmed to prevent hiding spots for thieves.
If you spot a broken window or opened door, do not enter and call the police immediately.