Suncoast sheriff issues warning on distraction burglaries

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Law enforcement agencies in several South Florida counties report that an organized group of Gypsy bandits have been committing a series of distraction burglaries, and residents on the Suncoast are being asked to be on alert for any similar activity locally.

According to Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell notes that these groups have migrated with the seasonal population, but this year these other counties have noticed that they are active earlier than usual.

The way that distraction burglaries often work is that one member of the group will knock on the door of an unsuspecting resident and get them to come outside their home. Once the resident is outside, detectives say other members of the group will go into the house through the back, taking anything of value they can get.

In the past, after other larger counties in Florida began seeing activity by illegal Gypsy groups, Charlotte County also had some sort of problems with similar criminal actions.

Sheriff Prummell would like to caution residents to be wary of strangers knocking on your front door and engaging you in a lengthy conversation. While you are talking with the stranger, their partner may be checking out your home or actually breaking into your house from the back.

“You should also be cautious of hiring a stranger who is going door-to-door to work on your house,” Sheriff Prummell said. “While one worker keeps you busy, someone else may be stealing from you.”

If you do have someone who seems to be trying to distract you outside your house, Sheriff Prummell suggests that you not confront them yourself, but to gather as much descriptive information as possible. Get tag numbers and descriptions of vehicles. Get clothing and personal information on the person or people. Then call the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at (941) 639-2101, or your local law enforcement.