Sunday, December 10, 2017
News Roundup

Con artists show up with warmer weather

countywide

it's the season for con artists, so stay vigilant

Springtime in Florida brings beautiful weather and outdoor fun, but it also attracts traveling con artists hoping to scam their way into homes to steal valuables. St. Petersburg police have seen an increase in "distraction burglaries" — crimes committed by con artists who approach a victim with a well rehearsed story.

They often travel in pairs and look for elderly victims or soft targets such as a home with an open garage door or a homeowner working alone in the yard. Typically, one will distract the homeowner with a bogus story while the partner makes a stealthy entry inside to steal money, jewelry or other small valuables.

A few weeks ago, two men represented themselves as city water employees to an elderly victim. The "city worker" said he was sent to check the hot water lines. Once inside, one of the men and the homeowner checked the water lines while his partner stole items from a bedroom. The crime was not discovered until after they left.

In another case, two suspects approached a homeowner about cracks in the seawall behind his home. One of the suspects distracted the victim by examining the seawall with him while the other one went inside and stole a large amount of jewelry.

Always be on guard when a stranger approaches you in public or at home. Always request identification if someone says they are with an agency or a company. Con artists will usually leave the area if they know you are calling the police, so report any suspicious individual immediately to the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 893-7780 or the Pinellas Sheriff's Office (727) 582-6200.

William Proffitt, St. Petersburg Police Department

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