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'Criminal tourism' robbery rings targeting wealthy US neighborhoods

"They’re groups that are formed in South America, a lot of times in Colombia, and they’re actually educated on how to commit these types of burglaries."

Nick Monroe Cleveland Ohio

An increase of home robberies sweeping the United States in recent weeks has authorities pointing toward a common source: South American criminal tourists that exploit the American immigration system to target wealthy suburbs from coast to coast.

Last Friday, in the Hillsborough neighborhood of San Francisco, California, a pair of multi-million dollar homes were robbed. Evidence of the crime was caught on one home surveillance camera and later released as a warning to the public.

According to KPIX, authorities believe the robberies are a part of a professional "criminal tourism" gang that targets wealthy suburb areas.

The working theory per Daily Mail is that these looters enter the United States through a visa waiver program that allows for international citizens from 40 nations to be screened in advance, then free to travel like a tourist throughout the USA for up to 90 days.

Police believe that the "criminal tourism" group exploits this system and uses it to rotate different groups of thieves in and out of the country.

In the case of Hillsborough, officials suspect the thieves were responsible for looting a safe and using the credit cards inside it.

What’s backing this "crime tourists" theory is that it’s not the first time such a phenomenon has been observed so far this year. The Washington Post used the term in a January 2022 piece outlining a similar crime spree that took place in Virginia.

In that case it was a sophisticated operation where the burglars stole over $2 million dollars from DC suburbs. They targeted wealthy Asian and Middle Eastern households.

The Post says these South American criminals come up from places like Colombia and Chile through the visa waiver program.

Typically, even when these suspects are caught, they’re let out on low bail for "nonviolent property offenses" and end up fleeing town. The intricacies of the robbery racket go as far as having the criminals forge Puerto Rican background documents, as residents of the island qualify for US citizenship.

However in the case of Fairfax City, police eventually nabbed suspects after a break-in:

"All four men in the vehicles were arrested: Mario Valencia Asprilla, Jhonny Valencia-Valencia, Diego Montano Chasoy and Freddy Hernandez Angulo. All four turned out to be Colombian, police said. A fifth member of the group, Josue Rodriguez Rolon, was arrested in June. It remains unclear how they entered the country."

But Hillsborough isn’t the only recent resurgence in suspected "criminal tourism." A local outlet out of Indianapolis reported on Monday that a series of home burglaries in the city of Fishers are also suspected of being from South America.

Again, high-end homes were targeted in a spree that officials say was an organized attack.

"It appears to be a theft group, South American Theft Group (SATG). They’re groups that are formed in South America, a lot of times in Colombia, and they’re actually educated on how to commit these types of burglaries," said Fishers officer Jessica Stout.

Fishers police provided a list of robbery prevention tips that include: leaving lights on as much as possible, don’t hide spare keys anywhere outside, putting up motion detector lights, and installing alarm systems.

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