By Jeff Gallatin
Residents who think they may be getting a bargain when alleged contractors and utility workers arrive unannounced can find the deal to be costly if they’re not careful, Bay Village police Chief Mark Spaetzel said.
With the weather finally warming up, Spaetzel issued a reminder to residents last week to be careful about “distraction” burglaries and their culprits.
“A distraction burglary occurs when residents are lured out of their home or contacted outside by an individual posing as some type of official contractor or utility worker,” Spaetzel said.
Westshore-area police noted that several eastern Cleveland-area suburbs reported distraction crimes last week, Spaetzel said.
“We haven’t had any in Bay Village yet, but they are out there, and we’ve had these type of crimes in Bay Village and surrounding communities in the past, and unfortunately, at some point, they’re going to come back here,” he said.
Spaetzel said citizens need to be aware of how the phony contractors operate.
“The contractor will ask the resident to either exit the house or go into the basement to check on some issue,” he said. “Past claims have included: They need to borrow water from the basement; they are from a roofing company and need to check the roof under warranty; they just moved into the neighborhood and would like to check the property lines; or they are from a utility company and need to check the water (or electric or gas).
“They are often speaking on a walkie-talkie or cellphone while in contact with the resident,” he said. “While the resident is distracted, a second individual enters the home and typically targets the bedroom to steal money, jewelry and drugs. They’re looking for something they can grab quickly and get out of there.”
Spaetzel said the culprits try to target the most vulnerable people.
“Our elderly population is often targeted for these types of crimes,” he said. “We encourage our older residents to never let anyone in their home unless they have been previously contacted for an appointment. Utility companies will never ask to come into your house or demand that you exit the house to assist them.”
Spaetzel said residents should contact the police immediately about any suspicious individuals.
“If anyone arrives unsolicited and pressures an elderly person to enter the home or have them exit the home, the homeowner should lock the doors and immediately call the police,” he said. “If it can be done safely from your secured home, attempt to get a vehicle description and direction of travel. Bay Village police would be more than happy to assist in confirming if someone at your house is on legitimate business. If you will be working out in your backyard, please lock the front or side door entries to your home.”
Spaetzel said residents with any questions or information should contact the Bay Village Police Department at 440-871-1234.