Police: Watch Out for Gypsy Burglars as Weather Warms
Mostly elderly couples in Orland Park and Tinley Park have been recently burglarized by scammers and swindled, some for as much as $20,000, police said.
Spring time means a return to several activities laid dormant by the winter. Police say that also includes a certain type of burglary.
As of late, Orland Park and its surrounding communities have been experiencing what police have dubbed gypsy ruse thefts.
Water leaks, aluminum siding, phony police investigations: the angle varies on the home. In general, someone pretending to be a neighbor or municipal worker distracts the home owner—typically an elderly person—in the backyard while one or more accomplices sneak in and steal cash and jewelry.
Orland Park police encourage gardeners, especially, to lock their home while they work and avoid letting any unscheduled visitors in their home. It sounds taut, but this and other scams are happening more often, and police suspect they’ll increase as the weather warms.
An 86-year-old woman from Tinley Park was reportedly fooled twice last month for a total of $20,000. Jewelry was stolen from an elderly couple in the 16400 block of Wolf Road in Orland Park just last week. The full details of this incident have not yet been released.
Don’t let the anachronistic moniker mislead you. Sordid though these modern “gypsies” may be, they allegedly aren't primitive or disorganized. Often working in groups of two to four, they coordinate with one another through radios and cell phones, letting one another know when it’s safe to enter and leave, police say.
“Even if you think you'll walk right next to them, there could be people coming in (your home) that you don't see,” Orland Park Police Commander John Keating said. “Call police and we'll send an officer out to verify. Only deal with your neighbors.”
The same goes for anyone claiming to be an inspector from the village without credentials or appointment. Municipalities rarely send someone to read water meters unless the owner was notified in advanced.
Keating said police departments around Chicago have been communicating with one another about these scams and are working with a couple leads. Descriptions of these thieves vary by ethnicity. Investigators are treating the burglaries as separate incidents but discussing the possibility they’re related.
In the meantime, Keating advised residents to keep a watchful eye on the driveways of elderly neighbors for suspicious activity.
"Sadly they prey on the elderly," Keating said. "It's easier for them to gain their trust, and often they live alone or with other elderly people. We encourage people to look out for their elderly neighbors if they have them."