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Chilean gangs targeting mansions in Oakland

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, along with several local police chiefs, held a press conference on Wednesday, December 6, to announce a new joint task force to share resources in order to catch transnational gang members from Chile who have been targeting the area for high end burglaries and jewelry store robberies.

Bouchard, surrounded by police chiefs from more than a dozen agencies, including Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher and Birmingham Police Chief Scott Grewe, said the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, several Oakland County police agencies, Wayne County agencies including Grosse Pointe Farms, Northville and Canton, and several agencies in Macomb County, as well as the FBI and other federal agencies, have joined to form the Southeast Michigan Collaborate, Arrest and Prosecute, or SEMCAP.

“We wanted to have a robust sharing with our partners,” Bouchard said. “The reason it's so important is because this gang is so coordinated, so highly trained, and they're targeting our area – and other places across the country,” he said. “I think we had five in Oakland County just over the last weekend.”

Bouchard hesitated to elaborate on details of the five burglaries over the weekend, but when pressed he said they were in Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township, with one “near miss” in Oakland Township.

Bouchard explained that the burglars are extremely stealthy, and from images caught on home surveillance cameras, they typically come in groups of three to six, dressed all in black, with backpacks, face masks and are heavily gloved. From those who have been arrested, including in at least two smash and grab jewelry store robberies, all of the suspects have been from Chile. He said they have been coming into this country either via the visa waiver program or illegally from the southern border.

“The four in our jail are all from Chile,” he said.

In the home break-ins, Bouchard said they first utilize a jammer which shuts down all wireless systems – whether an alarm, internet or cellular. “So if you have a wireless alarm system, wireless window contacts, it will jam those frequencies and won't get an alarm out.

“If you're in a neighborhood and unexplained, you're wireless seems to be going down and it's never happened before, that may be indicative that they're in your neighborhood,” Bouchard said. “That may be a good time to put in a call to your local police department.”

He said the targeted homes are all multimillion homes, regardless of the neighborhood or community, and they tend to be in a more secluded setting.

“It's very high-end homes with the ability to approach through the back with woods, golf course or some kind of ability to come in without being observed,” Bouchard said, noting the thieves are non-confrontational. “They're looking for high-end value – cash, jewelry, watches, high-end purses, and any safes they can carry with them. They'll take the safe and brute force them elsewhere.”

He noted they fence the items very quickly to New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

He urged homeowners to have “redundancies of alarms” and to watch out for suspicious vehicles and people.

He said as the new task force works together, they are realizing the gangs may have been in the area for longer than they realized, with what may have appeared to have been a break-in now fits a pattern. Bloomfield Township's Gallagher said he thinks it goes back to February of 2021.

“There have been about 30 to 40 tied to Oakland County since September,” Bouchard said.

They are currently working with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office and anticipate charges coming soon from her office for at least one of the home break-ins.


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