HILLSBOROUGH, Calif. -- Police in Hillsborough are investigating several leads related to a rash of residential burglaries this month and earlier this year that they believe are part of sophisticated, organized crime rings.
Investigators believe that a string of residential burglaries in Hillsborough in March were carried out by so-called South American Tourist Gangs, which Police Capt. Nelson Corteway refers to as "SATGs." These crews are sophisticated criminals who come to the U.S. to stealthily and efficiently fleece homes in toney neighborhoods.
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Corteway said it's "too early" to tell if this month's spate of break-ins is SATG-related. A description of the vehicle used by the robbers last spring and the one used in recent break-ins appears to be similar -- a newer dark gray sedan, possibly a Honda. Police are looking into the similarities, the captain said, along with help from allied agencies throughout the state.
Four break-ins have taken place in Hillsborough since Sept. 8. Thieves generally enter homes through rear entrances, usually by breaking glass to gain entry. A break-in on Saturday was captured on surveillance footage and shows multiple suspects wearing hoodies and masks.
"Interestingly, we have noted a connection to Southern California in many of the recent burglaries in affluent communities in the Bay Area," said Corteway.
Hillsborough police have recovered vehicles and stolen property from people's homes in Southern California, he said.
"HPD has also noted a specific occurrence recently where a vehicle registered from the Los Angeles area and involved in a robbery down south pinged our License Plate Reader cameras as well as others around the Bay Area."
Corteway believes that multiple groups are targeting specific affluent neighborhoods for burglary throughout the state and they include tourism burglars (SATG) as well as local groups that have added residential burglary to their activities.
Hillsborough police speculate that the increase in break-ins in wealthy communities could be tied to the Rolex robbery gangs that have plagued many Bay Area cities such as Oakland, Danville, Walnut Creek and San Leandro. Victims have had their six-figure watches taken from them by force, with Oakland reporting 20 such crimes in the last year. Corteway posits that the same group of organized criminals has now graduated to bigger bounty.
"We believe multiple groups are targeting specific affluent neighborhoods for burglary throughout the state and they include tourism burglars (SATG) as well as local groups that have added residential burglary to their activities," Corteway said. "It is our belief that local criminals, especially gang members, have increased their criminal activity from robberies to include residential burglary, and they are willing to travel."
Police are going over footage collected from the department's camera systems as well as that from victims and witnesses in these cases. However, the department would like to encourage homes with surveillance systems in the areas of the burglaries and surrounding streets to check their footage during the timeframes of the crimes to check for suspicious people or vehicles.
Police are particularly interested in footage of a silver or gray four-door sedan, possibly a Honda. People can contact Corteway at (650) 375-7552.