Hillsborough police warn about ‘South American Theft Groups’

in Crime

Hillsborough police are warning residents about a spike in residential burglaries in recent months, as well as a trend in which thieves from outside of the  U.S. commit “criminal tourism” in affluent communities.

The frequency of burglaries typically increases in Hillsborough during the fall and winter months, when dark hours increase and when more residents are away from their home during the holidays. Many incidents over the last year have been linked to sophisticated burglary crews coming from South America, police said.

“These groups are also known as South American Theft Groups (SATG),” police said. “They are transitional and target wealthy communities, committing thousands of burglaries in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Europe, India and Australia.”

In comparing data and evidence collected from burglaries, “it appears SATG has been responsible for many of Hillsborough’s burglaries over the past year,” police said.

Groups range in size from a few to dozens of members and they enter the U.S. legally. They’ll rent or buy a slightly used vehicle to blend into target communities and will travel across the nation to different affluent communities to commit burglaries, police said.

“Groups often rotate members out of the country in a matter of weeks,” said Hillsborough police.

These tactics are not new.

“Canadian Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) brought light to SATG committing residential burglaries in 2015,” police said.

Hillsborough police first connected SATG to burglaries in their cities in late 2018 and throughout 2019. One SATG member was suspected of committing three Hillsborough burglaries, police said.

The FBI has also linked SATGs to jewelry robberies, such as smash-and-grab heists at retail stores.

Hillsborough police provided a number of tips on how residents can prevent burglaries on their Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of the Hillsborough Police Department