Northville homes the latest target of international organized crime rings, local police say

A week after a Michigan sheriff warned that burglaries had ticked back up at high-end homes in metro Detroit, another local police agency is reporting more instances of robberies in Southeast Michigan.

This time, Northville Township authorities are asking homeowners to be aware of an organized crime group targeting big homes in neighborhoods. 

A news release from the police says law enforcement believes the group is from South America. With two homes targeted in March, at least five home invasions have now occurred in the past year – with each case showing "striking similarities."

The groups operate in teams of three to five people who coordinate their operations. Their methods involve parking on a nearby side street away from a home before breaking in. They're often after high-value items like cash and jewelry.

"Couple of the images that we have, although blurry, we can tell that they're wearing backpacks. They're in groups of three, four, five," said Deputy Chief Matthew Mackenzie with Northville Township police. "They are organized. Typically, they'll try to watch a house. Our guess is they don't want to encounter a homeowner."

Investigators also believe the criminals go through boot-camps in South America, and are sent to the United States on visas to target the rich.

"We are deeply concerned about the recent uptick in what appears to be organized crime activities targeting our neighborhoods," MacKenzie said. "We urge residents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities immediately to law enforcement." 


Sheriff: Chilean gangs are back targeting high-end homes for burglaries in Oakland County

In some cases the highly trained teams even use a jammer on wireless alarms - the sheriff recommends hardwiring your alarm system - and be sure to turn it on.

As a result, police are boosting their efforts to catch suspects, increasing patrols and adding more surveillance measures to the affected area. 

In late March, the Oakland County sheriff said foreign nationals from Chile were robbing homes in some of the wealthy suburbs in the area. Michael Bouchard told FOX 2 "clearly, I think they're back" after observing an uptick two weeks ago.

"The Chilean gangs have been hitting us very hard," he said. "Cash, jewelry, very high-end purses - that's pretty much the target."

One home had $800,000 in jewelry stolen from it. 

One of the Chilean groups was arrested in December for targeting retail stores and homes in metro Detroit. While there was a short-lived lull in such crimes after their arrest, the robberies have picked back up.

Bloomfield Township police also reported two similar robberies last weekend. In total, a half dozen Oakland County locations were targeted in the last two weeks.

"(In the) back of our minds, we knew as a police department that they would be back in our area," said Bloomfield Township Police Officer Nick Soley. "It's more than just the property that's being stolen. They are terrorizing, basically, Oakland County."

Bouchard has put together a task force to go after these gangs. As part of a partnership with Bloomfield Township police, a community meeting will be held next Thursday to warn the public.