Halton police say they have cracked an alleged crime ring tied to hundreds of break-and-enters that targeted luxury items.
Police say that a group of “foreign nationals” would knock on doors at random to see if anyone was home before signalling those at the back of the house to proceed inside.
“They would quickly rummage through the home,” said Det. Sgt. Paul Foley. “Within three to six minutes, they would be out of the home.”
It’s a pattern, Police Chief Stephen Tanner says, that victimized 70 families in Halton alone.
Police say the group is potentially connected to upwards of 400 other break-and-enters, and investigators believe the thefts go back to late last year.
In early March, a tip from a witness in Oakville and hours of footage from security cameras led investigators to a number of key locations.
“Our biggest break came from a citizen from Oakville who was out walking their dog and actually observed a break-and-enter occur,” Det. Ron Strauch of Halton police break-and-enter unit said.
“We arrested 14 individuals, executed four search warrants in the City of Toronto and in the City of Mississauga resulting in the recovery of approximately $2.7 million worth of stolen property,” Foley said.
The accused, according to police, are all originally from Chile. They face a total of 69 charges, including counts of break and enter, attempted break and enter and possession of property obtained by crime.
The investigation remains ongoing in partnership with Canada Border Services Agency and police forces in Toronto and York regions.
Strauch, who’s been an officer in Halton for 11 years and worked on break-ins for the last five years, said the case is the biggest he’s seen.
“This is the largest … seizure and amount of break and enters attributed to one sort of crew, if you will, that I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
In the meantime, police are working to return the recovered property, which largely consists of designer bags, jewelry and watches.
Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to contact Halton police at 905-825-4777 ext. 2255.
—With files from Kerri Breen