Redlands police warn residents about highly organized 'crime tourists' targeting homes

Police say the burglars usually have "lookouts" in vehicles and sometimes even try to blend in with the neighborhood.

Rob McMillan Image
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
'Crime tourists' could be behind recent burglaries in Redlands: Police
Police say the burglars usually have "lookouts" in vehicles and sometimes even try to blend in with the neighborhood, like posing as construction workers.

REDLANDS, Calif. (KABC) -- The Redlands Police Department has issued a warning on an alleged organized burglary ring they believe is responsible for hundreds of residential burglaries, some of which have been caught on video.

Several homes in the area have been targeted just in the past couple of weeks.

In one incident, surveillance footage shows a group of thieves approaching a home and using a flashlight to check out the inside before breaking in. Footage from another incident in the same area shows a group breaking one of the windows before going into the home.

"Since January 22nd, we've had increasing reports of residential burglaries, all with basically the same MO, window smashes and door kicks on rear doors," said Carl Baker, a spokesperson for the Redlands Police Department.

He said most of the break-ins happened between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Investigators believe the group may be a part of an organization known to law enforcement as South American theft groups, comprised of thieves who are well-trained and sophisticated.

"We do believe the group operates with a lookout who parks nearby, and alerts their group if they see somebody coming home," said Baker.

It isn't the first time law enforcement has come across this group.

"South American theft groups, also known as crime tourists, or Chilean tourists, burglars, but they're transnational gangs, and they come into this country, or many other countries around the world as well, on 90-day visas and take advantage of our systems and our laws," said former Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell who now serves at the director of USC's Safe Communities Institute.

He said these thieves work all across the country. In fact, ABC7 has reported on theft rings in Orange County that operate in the same way.

"They target wealthy households, and often use rental cars, cars that fit into the neighborhood that they're going to be stealing from, oftentimes they'll pre-stage a car there with cameras on the car to be able to watch the house and get a pattern of life of the residents so they know when you're going to be gone, how long you're going to be gone," said McDonnell.

He urges residents to keep an eye out for unusual cars in their neighborhood and keep an eye on their neighbors.

"They go literally all over the world, but we're particularly attractive because of the way the laws are here today," said McDonnell. "They know if they come in, they can do whatever they're going to do, they're going to probably be released on bail or without bail, and then they're in the wind."

Anyone with information is urged to contact authorities.