Task Force Formed to Combat Rising “Burglary Tourism” Threat

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Task Force Formed to Combat Rising "Burglary Tourism" Threat
Task Force Formed to Combat Rising “Burglary Tourism” Threat

Gangs of “burglary tourists” from South America have been exploiting U.S. temporary visas.

They enter the country to rob mansions and then flee back to their home countries with the stolen valuables.

According to police officials from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), this trend has become increasingly prevalent.

Escalating crime trends

LAPD reports a significant rise in burglaries involving residents of Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, notably in specific Los Angeles areas.

In 2023 alone, 94 burglaries were attributed to individuals from these countries, indicating a growing issue within the region.

Expansion of criminal activities

Recent developments indicate the spread of this criminal phenomenon beyond Los Angeles, with incidents reported in Long Island and New Jersey.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified these gangs as an “enormous threat” to the United States since 2022, prompting heightened law enforcement efforts.

Response from law enforcement

In response to the escalating gang activity, both the FBI and LAPD have established specialized task forces dedicated to addressing the issue.

LAPD Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton emphasized the situation’s urgency, stating, “The number of crimes tied to these kinds of crews are way, way up,” despite an overall decrease in burglaries.

Visa Program exploitation

The gangs are exploiting the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a program initiated in 2014 to facilitate tourism from trusted countries.

Under this program, South Americans can enter the United States for multiple 90-day periods without undergoing extensive background checks.

Modus Operandi

These burglary tourists typically avoid using firearms to evade gun charges.

Instead, they employ sophisticated techniques such as hacking into home Wi-Fi networks to bypass security systems.

They target homes near open spaces like hiking trails and canyons, using ladders or patio furniture to access second-floor bedrooms, which are often less protected.

Effects on other travelers

The exploitation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) by criminal gangs highlights broader implications for foreign travelers visiting the United States under this program.

While ESTA was designed to facilitate tourism from trusted countries, burglary tourists’ misuse of temporary visas highlights the need for strict vetting procedures and security measures.

This criminal activity endangers public safety and threatens U.S. immigration’s integrity, which may negatively influence the perception of foreign travelers using ESTA.

International cooperation challenges

Efforts to combat this criminal activity have been hindered by challenges in international cooperation.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric has refused to disclose the criminal histories of ESTA users, limiting law enforcement’s ability to apprehend offenders.

Legal action and prosecution

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has taken legal action against President Boric to overcome these obstacles and obtain vital information.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies coordinate efforts to prosecute those involved in burglary tourism, assigning dedicated prosecutors to handle related cases.

Recent arrests and recoveries

Recent law enforcement operations have resulted in the arrest of several individuals connected to burglary tourism.

Notably, a 17-year-old Chilean and two accomplices were arrested in Arizona following a series of jewelry heists.

Law enforcement intercepted another gang with over $1 million worth of stolen clothing from a single robbery in Beverly Hills.

Ongoing challenges and future strategies

Law enforcement officials acknowledge the complexity of combating organized criminal networks engaged in burglary tourism.

Despite recent successes, authorities stress the importance of ongoing cooperation and innovative strategies to tackle this evolving threat.