Police want Montville Township residents, especially seniors, to be wary of “distraction burglars” — an old crime that may be making a comeback along with spring weather.
Distraction burglaries are just what the name says. One member of a criminal team draws a resident out of the house under false pretenses — buried utility line issues or outdoor home repair matters — while their partner enters the house and takes any valuables in sight.
Police warn that personal papers also may be taken and later used to commit identity theft.
“While we have not had any reported to us yet this year, there have been several ‘Distraction Burglaries’ in neighboring counties over the past few weeks,” Montville Township police wrote on its Facebook page Wednesday. “Knowing this, we feel it is a good time to remind our residents how they can help us deter crime by being safe at home.”
Possible attempted distraction burglaries were reported by police in Strongsville and Mayfield Heights, in Cuyahoga County, and Willoughby and Wickliffe, in Lake County.
Police said in two of the incidents, the suspect was seen driving a dark-colored SUV with a chrome grill and a luggage rack. One of the suspects was described by witnesses as a man who spoke very fast and wore a dark ball cap with “VANS” on the front. He was wearing blue jeans and always wears gloves, especially when he enters the house.
Elderly individuals are especially vulnerable because they are more likely to live alone, they may need help doing yard work, trimming trees, maintaining fencing and do similar tasks.
Some elderly also may suffer from impaired cognition or judgment. While distraction burglaries often target elderly residents, police say the risk of being a victim can be reduced with some simple precautions.
To prevent distraction burglary, police warn residents to be suspicious of anyone who comes to the door. In the case of someone claiming to be on official business, police say it’s wise to ask for identification, but that it can be faked.
They say it’s a better idea to call the agency and confirm that there are legitimate workers in the area. Residents should be especially suspicious of anyone who wants access to their home.
Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Do not leave purses or wallets out in the open.
• Keep jewelry and small valuables in a safe. Use jewelry boxes only for costume jewelry.
• Keep all doors locked. If the person has a legitimate reason to get you out of the house, pick up keys and lock the house behind you.
• If a suspicious incident occurs, residents are asked to call police immediately, especially if the person or vehicle is still in the neighborhood.