Burglary near Lake Hollingsworth

burglar.jpgAn update to Always Be Careful from this afternoon. There was a theft traced back to the phony Lakeland city employee, and he had an accomplice.

The robbery began innocently enough. An elderly Cleveland Park man answered his door to find a stranger. The man explained he worked for the city and needed access to the resident’s back yard. They walked through the house into the back yard. The faux employee explained to the elderly man that the city planned to widen the alley behind the house.

The resident later told neighbors the man kept him talking a long time. The conversation was interrupted when the resident’s wife called from the house. She had finished bathing and came out to find a man leaving their house. She noticed items were in disarray and called out to her husband.

As her husband went back into his house a neighbor noticed the fake employee walking down the alley. He questioned the man and was given the same “widening the alley” story. The neighbor thought it odd, especially when the man quickly walked away down the alley. The neighbor walked around the block looking for a city car or truck, and found none. He then called the city to find no work was planned for the alley.

The elderly homeowner and his wife lost valuables today, but fortunately neither were hurt. Unfortunately, this type of crime isn’t rare. It’s called “deception burglary.”

From the Baltimore County, Maryland website:

Suspects, posing as legitimate workers, approach elderly homeowners at their residence with the intent of gaining entry under a seemingly legitimate role: local gas company, water department, cable company, tree trimmers, pavers, County inspectors, or government officials. One suspect will distract the homeowner while a second suspect will enter the home and search inside for valuables and cash.

Another type of ruse used to gain entry into the home is for a suspect to knock on the door and ask for a pen and piece of paper to leave the victim’s neighbor a note. The suspect may appear to have difficulty writing the note, and will ask to come inside the house. Once inside the victim’s house, the suspect will ask the victim to help write the note. As the suspect keeps the victim occupied, others enter the residence to remove money and valuables.

A variety of vehicles have been associated with these subjects including pick-up trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles.

Be particularly alert to anyone in your neighborhood looking to perform home repairs, or asking to gain entry into your home. Be sure to ask to see identification and let them know you are going to call and get authorization from their company before allowing them access. If they are legitimate, they won’t mind the wait.

Remember, do not intervene, but call 911 immediately about suspicious activity.

The South Wales (U.K.) Police Force offers good advice to anyone answering the door:

Divisional Crime Prevention Officer, PC Dick Collins said, “It is always important to remember the simple stop, check and chain advice whenever someone calls at your door.

STOP – Are you expecting anybody? Do they have an appointment
CHAIN – Secure the door bar or chain before opening the door
CHECK– Ask for and double-check the caller’s I.D.

To check ID you can call the City of Lakeland at (863) 834-6000. The Lakeland City Police emphasize always dial 911 for emergencies. Their non-emergency number is (863) 834-6900.

The Lakeland City Police Community Services Unit can speak to your group about Neighborhood Watch, Elderly Services, or crime prevention. You can contact Sgt. Mike Spade at (863) 834-6912 for more information.

Photo illustration CC by Brenda Wallace