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Burglars Use Old Gypsy Tactic on Elderly Resident

By Lookout Staff

February 1 – Police are searching for burglars who are using a century-old gypsy tactic to trick and distract unsuspecting victims who are usually elderly.

The hunt was spurred by a burglary that took place early Saturday afternoon on the 1700 block of Franklin Avenue, according to police.

“The suspects knocked on an elderly resident’s door and said they were with the water company and had to enter to check the residential water pressure,” said Lt. Frank Fabrega, the police department spokesman.

The resident opened the door and the suspects entered, Fabrega said. One suspect immediately went into the kitchen and looked under the sink, while the other suspect was continually receiving phone calls.

“The suspects left abruptly, saying they would return,” he said.

After the suspects were gone the victim noticed money was missing, as well as her bank statement and cancelled checks, police said.

The burglaries are staged in the following manner:

Two, three or four suspects select a home for target, usually because an elderly person lives there. One of the suspects will go to the door and tell the homeowner that he/she is with the Gas Company, Water Company, or Edison and they need to check the utility.

Usually, one suspect will talk to the homeowner and distract him/her while the other suspect(s) go through the house and take jewelry, money, and small items. The ruse of needing to use the resident's phone for an emergency, or a claim to be a relative of the elderly resident are ruses also employed. In those few minutes inside the residence the suspect or suspects steal the victims property and leave.

Police Chief James T. Butts, Jr. encourages all residents to ask for company photo identification from the worker before they enter a residence and to be sure they are driving a company truck.

Usually the company truck is parked in front of the targeted residence, police said. If the worker does not have identification or refuses to provide the identification, the resident should immediately call the police.

One of the suspects in Saturday’s incident is described as a male Hispanic, 35 years of age, standing 5'5" and weighing130 pounds, police said. He is clean shaven and was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans.

The second suspect is a white male, possibly Italian, police said. He is 22 years of age, stands 5'6" and weighs 140 pounds. He was wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and a gray cap.

The suspects were conversing in an unknown language, but it was not Spanish, Fabrega said. No vehicle was seen.

Anyone having additional information should call the Santa Monica Police Department at 310-458-8491.

Callers who wish to remain anonymous may also call the We-Tip national hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463).

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