Organized Crime Ring Targeting RSF

By Phil Trubey

March 16, 2022

About 40 Rancho residents gathered at the RSF Golf Club Tuesday night to hear County Sheriff deputies talk about an international organized crime ring that is burglarizing homes across the United States, including here in Rancho Santa Fe.

About 27 local burglaries have occurred in the last 12 months, which is more than double what a typical 12 month period would see. These burglaries, often characterized as “home invasions” use forced entry, often by smashing a window.

San Diego County Sheriffs are being assisted by the FBI since about half of these burglaries are suspected of being committed by a South American crime ring which has hit cities across the United States, resulting in 1,700 recent arrests. However, there are now copy cat crime groups adopting similar tactics.

Modus Operandi

The burglars are often in teams of 3-4, almost always males. They rent hard to trace late model cars and SUVs to blend in. They target dusk hours, when interior house lights will start to turn on … or not. They look for houses that appear to not have any activity, using interior lighting as their main indicator. A driver will deposit 2-3 individuals in an area who then leave on foot down a riding trail, canyon path, or golf course trail. These individuals are dressed in clothing that will blend in with local residents. They will typically have a backpack.

They try to approach a house from the rear, smashing a window or large patio door to enter. They are looking for small high value items, often jewelry or cash. They look for the house’s safe – if it is small enough, they’ll just take the safe for later opening. Other times, they crowbar a safe open, or, in some cases, will use a plasma cutter.

Burglars won’t target a home that they think is occupied, but they can make mistakes. So far when people have been home during an attempted burglary, the burglars have fled. While no bodily injury has been reported, that doesn’t mean the next interaction will happen the same way.

Report Suspicious People

The number one thing that the Sheriff is asking our community to do is to report suspicious people. If you see someone or 2-3 people who look odd, or appear to be loitering, or are carrying backpacks, or see a car parked in an odd location with a driver at the wheel, please call and report it. The Sheriffs would much rather have ten friendly community interactions as opposed to not getting that one call that could lead to an arrest.

The easiest thing is to call 911 which will go directly to the Sheriff dispatch office. Alternatively, you can call our RSF Patrol’s dispatch number of 858-756-4372 which is also staffed 24×7. The Patrol will typically have faster response times since they are always located in RSF whereas the Sheriffs may be located elsewhere in San Diego County at any one time. Both agencies will contact each other for such calls.

Protecting Your Home

Here’s a list of things you can do to protect your home:

  • Use a security alarm that has a loud alarm (not a silent one).
  • Make sure your system has glass break detectors (typically one per exterior room is needed).
  • Update your security alarm call numbers. These days, it makes sense that the first number the company calls should be a cell phone number. Remove old phone numbers since the alarm company goes through the call list before dispatching, giving a burglar valuable time.
  • Use smart home devices to randomly turn on and off interior lights when no one is home.
  • Use motion detection exterior security lights along with high definition color security cameras to help capture evidence.
  • Large dogs with deep barks will usually scare away intruders, but if your dog isn’t threatening, these burglars will just ignore the dog.
  • If you have a driveway gate, keep it shut as dusk approaches.
  • If you plan on being away, the RSF Patrol will do security checks for your property while you are away, just give them a call (Patrol office number is 858-756-9966).

A video recording of the one hour long meeting is available here.

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