RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Riverside police investigators are asking for the public’s help to bust a crime ring with ties to criminal organizations in South America.
Criminal crews from South America, also known as "criminal tourists," have been around for decades, but have primarily targeted businesses in the past. Now, officials say they have expanded their criminal enterprise to home burglaries and the Riverside community is being hit hard.
The Riverside Police Department released surveillance video showing the suspects in hopes someone who recognizes them will come forward.
Video shows the burglars work in groups of three to six men and usually use women as lookouts. The group is responsible for at least 17 home burglaries in the Inland Empire city this year.
The majority of the burglaries have occurred in the communities of Alessandro Heights, Hawarden Hills and Mission Grove.
Investigators said the bandits typically gain access into the homes by shattering sliding glass back doors, and have been also been known to climb onto the second floor of a home to get in. In addition, the suspects usually strike on weekends between 6 p.m. and midnight.
While Riverside residents are being hit hard by the burglaries investigators say South American crews are behind, similar crimes have been reported nationwide.
Last weekend, Ventura County deputies interrupted a burglary in progress in Thousand Oaks. After a short foot chase, two men and a 14-year-old boy were arrested. The three suspects are accused of being a part of an organized crime ring from Chili.
Investigators said in many cases, the suspects cased the homes they were going to hit days before and often sit in high-end cars while observing their next target.
Officials are asking residents to stay alert and report suspicious behavior.