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Transient criminals targeting Bethesda homes | News

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Transient criminals targeting Bethesda homes

BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA9) -- Police are warning residents in the Bethesda area to be aware of a group of transient criminals who are burglarizing homes.

The thieves have hit more than a dozen homes since September.

The suspects may pose as WSSC employees to divert homeowners to the basement while a break-in team goes inside to rob the house. In other cases, a woman may ask to use the phone while another woman steals property, according to police.

Transient criminals will also knock on the front door and if no one answers, they will enter through a side door or rear window, police say.

The burglaries usually happen during daylight hours in a short window of opportunity, according to police. "[The thieves are] just taking a small window of opportunity to gain access into homes and take advantage of the situation," Officer Nicole Gamard of the Montgomery County Police Department explained.

A long-term Bethesda resident told Mola Lenghi that the thieves caused $8,000 of damage trying to break into her home through a sun room. The attempted break-in happened during the day, the resident explained. Luckily a jam in the sliding door prevented the thieves from gaining access to the woman's home. The resident's neighbors were not as lucky, the thieves broke in to their home just days after the attempted break-in.

The suspects may be from out of town, possibly Ohio, Pennsylvania or North Carolina. A person sitting in an unknown car could be a transient criminal scouting a neighborhood, police say.

Transient criminals are known to use walkie talkies, and police say they
mark the homes or the streets in front of the homes as a signal to the break-in team.

We do not have specific suspect descriptions, but Capt. David Falcinelli sent the following in a letter to Bethesda community groups:

"The appearance of a transient criminal can generally be described as medium to dark complexioned Caucasian, who are often mistaken as Hispanics. Dark hair and dark eyes are common characteristics. The number of suspects involved can be between two and six. At times, American transient criminal women and children will accompany a male suspect, or two women will work as a team. A look out is often used and usually sits in the vehicle and may sound the car horn if the police are spotted. You should note that transient criminals are experts at false identification and will use a variation of family names and birth dates."

If confronted in the home, the burglars usually use a ruse like they are looking for somebody who used to live there and apologize to the homeowner, according to police.

Transient criminals tend to stay in local motels for a few weeks while they commit their crimes.

"They stay here for a couple of weeks, stay in a motel and move on, sometimes they come back as the season change, and sometimes we never see them again," Officer Gamard said.

Officer Gamard says that neighbors need to keep an eye out for one another, and report any suspiscious activity to police" We'd rather have people call us and not need us than need us and not call us. The biggest help in all this is going to be the citizens keeping and eye out and giving us a call," Officer Gamard said.

Please call police at at 301-279-8000 as soon as you see any suspicious behavior or 911 is a crime is occurring. Try to note a tag number and descriptions of the people and their vehicle. Take pictures if you can safely.