Whether it's a search for snakes in Burlingame or a roof in need of repair in San Carlos, regional law enforcement agencies are encouraging residents to be aware of a new crime trend they're dubbing as “distraction burglary.”
San Mateo County Sheriff's Office sent out an alert to residents about an incident Tuesday where a man posing as a roofing contractor approached a resident at his Elm Street home and told him that he may be in need of roof repairs.
The alleged roofer told the man that he had just completed a roofing job nearby and had some leftover materials that he could use to repair the roof.
While the resident joined the alleged roofer on the roof to inspect the damage, two additional unknown suspects, a woman and a man, entered the home through the front door and rummaged through the home, according to the sheriff's office.
Drawers in the bedroom and a desk in the living room had been opened and rummaged through, the victim reported to the sheriff's office.
The suspects in this case are described as a Hispanic man in his 40s; a heavy set Hispanic woman and a younger Hispanic man, all of whom were seen sitting in a newer model green crew cab pick-up truck that was parked on the street.
The burglary scam is a new trend in which a two- or three-suspect team uses a distraction technique to gain access to the home by one suspect or suspects while the other suspect occupies the victim.
On Aug. 27, in both San Mateo and Burlingame, two victims reported being distracted by suspects posing as animal control officers searching for snakes. In the San Mateo incident, nothing was reported missing but in Burlingame, a coin collection was reported missing.
The Burlingame incident was reported on Francisco Drive, behind Burlingame High School, around 6:50 p.m. when a woman claimed to be an animal control officer and said she needed to check the backyard for snakes. While the man escorted the woman to the yard, another suspect entered the home and stole the man's coin collection, according to police.
The resident told police the woman spoke loudly and frequently in a “Bronx”-type accent. The resident suspected she might have spoke in this manner to cover up the sounds of her accomplice breaking into the home.
The woman was last seen walking southbound on Rollins Road. She is described as a heavyset Hispanic woman with bleached blonde hair tucked into a baseball cap. She stands about 5 feet 2 inches tall and was wearing a khaki uniform with dried glue stains.
Earlier that same day at 4:50 p.m., San Mateo police received a report of a woman posing to be a city of San Mateo employee working for pest abatement.
The woman told the homeowner, who lives in the 400 block of Alameda de las Pulgas, that she needed to check the inside of the home for a possible infestation and then the outside to set snake traps.
The woman was wearing a tan uniform and had a hat covering her blonde hair. She stood 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed approximately 120 pounds. She was estimated to be about 30 years old and had a nose ring.
Although nothing was taken from the San Mateo home, San Mateo police Sgt. Dave Norris said that all local agencies that have had similar cases are sharing information and communicating with one another. Law enforcement officials are also hoping residents will be on alert for this
type of burglary to avoid becoming a victim.
Law enforcement is asking for residents to contact police if anything suspicious occurs.