An incident Jan. 6 in which a S Catherine Ave homeowner phoned La Grange police claiming that a man posing as a new neighbor attempted to gain access to the house prompted police and other village officials to issue a crime prevention alert regarding "ruse" burglaries.
The Catherine Ave incident appears to be the latest attempt in a string of such burglaries in La Grange and surrounding communities dating back to Nov. 2 when a homeowner in the 800 block of S La Grange Rd told police that a man entered the yard and inquired about trimming some hedges. Meanwhile, according to the homeowner, a second person allegedly entered the home and stole about $500 in cash, which was not discovered missing until the next day.
Victims of ruse burglaries. also known as "gypsy scams," often are elderly residents who are both trusting and easily distracted, La Grange Police Investigator Patrick Fulla said.
The Catherine Ave homeowner is a senior citizen, Fulla said, but one who was alert enough to be suspicious when the stranger, claiming to be a new neighbor, asked to be let inside the home to exchange contact information. Instead, the homeowner shut the door and immediately called police.
No one was apprehended by police in that incident, Fulla said.
An alert posted on the village's website warns that "ruse" perpetrators sometimes have posed as representatives of utility companies, and even the village itself. Often they ask a homeowner to come look at something in the yard, garage or basement as a means of distracting them while an accomplice rummages through the house grabbing cash and other easily concealed valuables, then makes a hasty exit.
"It may be four or five days before the homeowner realizes something is missing," Fulla said.
Residents should always demand identification from individuals claiming to be with the village or a utility company, according to the village's alert.
The alert also cautions residents not to leave doors unlocked or go into their yards with anyone that they do not know.
"Any suspicious behavior is reason to call us," Fulla said.
"We want to protect all our residents and particularly our seniors," Village President Elizabeth Asper said after reading the alert aloud at Monday night's meeting of the village board.