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Spate of burglaries possibly linked to ‘criminal tourism’

By Betty Yu

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    HILLSBOROUGH, California (KPIX) — A quiet residential town on the peninsula has seen an increase in burglaries over the past four months. Hillsborough police say a specific group could be behind the troubling trend.

Many of the sophisticated burglary crews are coming from South America for “criminal tourism” and they are targeting wealthy communities, according to a community alert sent Sunday.

Residential security video shows a suspect dropping to the ground before looking around in the area of Eugenia Way and Butternut Drive around midnight on March 11.

A getaway car pulls up as burglars carrying stolen property load up the vehicle. Hillsborough police say the thieves also stole the resident’s SUV from the garage. Detectives announced Sunday they had recovered the stolen car and processed it for evidence.

Hillsborough police say they believe the suspects in this case are responsible for additional burglaries in Hillsborough and throughout the region. The department is working with other agencies including Southern California law enforcement and federal partners in this ongoing investigation.

Police believe South American Theft Groups (SATG) often enter the country legally and rotate members out of the country in a matter of weeks. Such crime rings were first investigated in Hillsborough in 2018. Suspects often use luxury cars to easily blend into their target communities, police said.

“I’ve been seeing more policemen driving around at night, people being more concerned recently because I’m very young and drive a black van. Recently I was stopped by a woman thinking I was a burglar — thief — and asking me what I’m doing here,” said Hillsborough resident Matt Gouley.

Earlier this month surveillance video captured four people carrying a safe away from a home to a dark-colored SUV in the area of Country Club and Hillsborough Boulevard. Police say credit cards inside the safe were later used in Modesto and Los Angeles County. Hillsborough police say previous investigations of this nature also led them to the same areas.

“I do have a lot of friends that live in Hillsborough. We live in Burlingame and they did mention that they’re concerned about burglars breaking in,” said Joana Khatib. “Gets me a little concerned ’cause it feels very safe but it reminds me that maybe we should lock our doors and have actually a Ring camera.”

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