SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Homes in north Poway, 4S Ranch, Rancho Santa Fe, and more communities have been targeted during a string of high-end burglaries.
"They're looking for high-end jewelry, purses, handbags, and cash," said Detective Justin Cole with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department in Poway.
The department shared surveillance video from recent break-ins in the North County. Cole said the thieves typically travel in groups of three to four, entering the homes together, while one remains outside as a getaway driver. They've had multiple reports in wealthier neighborhoods.
"So far, there's been approximately 68 that have been identified specifically with this group," said Cole, adding that the 68 reported break-ins do not include recent burglaries reported in La Jolla. "They target specifically high-end residential homes that back up to any type of greenbelt, open space preserves, golf course, hiking trail.
Cole said the thieves are highly skilled and organized but don't appear to be armed or violent.
"The group that these individuals are involved with is referred to as the South American Theft Group, and they're made up of mostly Chileans foreign nationals with a few Colombians," he explained.
He said different agencies in San Diego County are working together to investigate the burglaries starting in May of 2021 but added that the group is familiar to law enforcement across the country.
Cole said it's challenging to keep tabs on the suspects, as the groups swap out frequently.
"They travel all over the country, so the group that hit the homes last month is not the same group that hit the homes this month, and it'll be a totally different group of people that hit next month," said Cole. "The particular group that's affecting San Diego County, they're based out of Los Angeles and Orange County, they come down here to commit the crimes, then they go back to LA with the stolen property. The FBI out of LA has a task force dedicated just to this group."
Law enforcement officials are now asking people to update their alarm systems, surveillance cameras, and to also leave on light or televisions when they're not home, making the house look occupied.
Cole said no arrests had been made locally just yet, so he's asking residents to be on high alert and say something if they see something suspicious.