Thieves targeting seniors in ruse burglaries
by BRIAN NADIG
The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District is experiencing an increase in ruse burglaries where the offenders pretend to be a contractor, utility worker or city agency employee and scam the elderly to gain access to their homes.
“One occupies the owner, and one sneaks in the back (of the house),” district commander Heather Daniel said at the June 16 meeting of the 16th District Advisory Committee. “They prey on seniors often.”
There were eight ruse burglaries reported between May 28 and June 17, and three additional incidents are being investigated as possible ruse burglaries, according to the district. On the average one or two ruse burglaries are reported per month, but they often occur in spurts, according to police.
“There is a real uptick,” community policing sergeant Jeff Aaron said, urging residents to help warn their neighbors. Cash and jewelry are often reported stolen in these burglaries.
Incidents have been reported in the 5700 block of North Merrimac Avenue, the 5000 block of West Sunnyside Avenue, the 5800 block of West Foster Avenue, the 5200 block of West Dakin Street, the 4300 block of North Narragansett Avenue, the 5300 block of West Berenice Avenue, the 6000 block of West School Street and the 8100 block of Berwyn Avenue.
Daniel said that in some instances offenders have told the victims they are from the water department or have leftover concrete from a nearby job, suggesting that it could be used for the victim’s home. She added that Chicago police have been working with suburban departments to address these burglaries.
Overall the number of reported burglaries in the district this year is 142 compared to 116 during the same period last year, a 22 percent increase, and the number of thefts is 411 compared to 271 last year, a 52-percent increase.
Catalytic converter thefts have played a significant role in the overall increase in thefts, district officials said.
“They’re like pit crews, in and out do fast,” Aaron said.
Daniel cautioned residents to call 911 and not to confront catalytic converter thieves because in some instances they have carried guns.
The meeting was the first one with Daniel at the helm of the district. Daniel, who has served on the force for more than 22 years, was appointed commander on June 1.
Daniel said that she was “incredibly surprised” and honored by the appointment especially given that she lives in the district. “I said absolutely I’d love to do it,” Daniel said. “We are really blessed with such a supportive community here.”
Also at the meeting, the advisory committee selected officers Brian Spreng and Anthony La Rocca for the district’s “Officer of the Month” award for their May 9 arrest of a man charged in connection with reports of gunshots in the 5300 block of West School Street. Police found a gun and a 17-round capacity magazine loaded with five live rounds in the suspect’s backpack, police said.