INDIAN HILL, Ohio (WKRC) - A highly-organized foreign burglary ring is reportedly targeting the Tri-State area's wealthiest neighborhoods.
The suspects appear to be coming to the US from Chile on special tourist visas, then returning back to South America with their "take."
The problem has become so pervasive, the Village of Indian Hill Rangers put out a pamphlet warning locals of these "tourist burglars."
According to the pamphlet, detectives have analyzed 23 recent burglaries, 14 of which appear to have the same modus operandi: the suspects hit high-end properties at night, when the residents are not home, usually entering through a second-floor master suite, where there are generally no cameras.
"We can no longer say that Indian Hill is invulnerable,” said resident Michelle Young.
She has not been burglarized, but did receive one of the pamphlets warning of the organized crime ring.
It recommends people lock their doors and windows, activate burglar alarms, plus install cameras and shatter-proof windows.
The rangers also suggest, if they go on vacation, to light up their home inside and out and get a neighbor to bring in mail and packages.
"I am going to make one more change,” Young said. “I'm going to start closing the gates."
Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco says these kinds of crime are not exclusive to the Tri-State.
“It's happening all over the country," she said.
Dr. Sammarco and her crime lab are working with local law enforcement to help investigate these foreign burglary rings.
As for why so many of the suspects across the country come from Chile, Dr. Sammarco points to the Department of Homeland Security's Visa Waiver Program.
It enables eligible citizens from designated countries to travel to the US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa. There are 40 countries on the list, but the only one in South America is Chile.
It was added to the list in 2014, around the same time the number of high-end burglaries began rising and Chilean natives started getting arrested more often.
Look, if we're having a problem with people that have been coming here taking advantage of the Visa Waiver Program and there have been multiple arrests that can point back to the people getting these visas very easily, then it's a no-brainer," Dr. Sammarco said. "Shut it down.
Reports say there have been arrests which could be related to some of the local burglaries, and that the potential suspects, apparently from Chile, are in custody in another state.
Local 12 contacted both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security regarding the problem and is still waiting to hear back.