“Crime tourism” on the rise in U.S.
The investigation began in January 2020 after burglaries targeted wealthy Asian or Middle Eastern families in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Police caught four men in March after they put a tracking device on a suspected vehicle and tracked it to a tripped home alarm in Fairfax County, Va. A fifth suspect was arrested in June but ran away after paying bond. Police said the cell is a South American Theft Group (SATG) and link it to more than 50 burglaries with about $2 million in losses locally.
What is a South American Theft Group? According to the FBI, members are typically Colombian or Chilean nationals who enter the U.S. illegally or on expedited tourist or business visas from trusted countries and then steal and sell jewelry across the country. Such thefts are on the increase since the United States included Chile in a visa waiver program in 2014, The Washington Post reported. The robberies are difficult to track and once members are caught, they get out on bail and skip town to steal more. SATGs have been linked to crimes in California, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Texas. Dan Heath, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division, told the Post the cells pose growing threats internationally, as well.
Dig deeper: Listen to Sarah Schweinsberg’s report on The World and Everything in It podcast about how defunding police affects crime in cities.
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