updated 2/10/2005 3:10:08 PM ET 2005-02-10T20:10:08

In this gated world of great riches, wealth is protected behind high stone walls, intercoms, security cameras and warning signs. And still burglars are managing to break into the mansions of Greenwich.

About 15 homes have been burglarized in the past few months in Greenwich, many in the town’s so-called back country where celebrities and corporate executives live.

The burglars have taken at least $750,000 worth of expensive jewelry, fur coats, cash, credit cards and cameras. They have an eye for the finer things, leaving behind inexpensive jewelry.

“They like stones, diamonds and rubies, emeralds,” said Detective Tim Powell. “They like fur coats, too. They’ll pry a safe off the floor if they can get that.”

The burglars strike empty homes, typically during the early evening. They work quickly, cutting phone lines, disabling alarm systems and knocking down grand entrances.

“They have some refined skills,” Powell said. But he added: “They will be brought to justice. Of that I’m confident.”

Authorities suspect the Greenwich break-ins were carried out by the same burglars, and believe they are operating in at least four other states: New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.

No famous residents hit
None of the town’s famous residents, who include actors Ron Howard and Mel Gibson, have been victimized, police say.

The burglars know the well-to-do are often away from home on business or winter vacations. And neighbors live so far apart on one- to four-acre properties that witnesses to the crimes are rare.

Police have increased patrols in the exclusive neighborhoods of Greenwich, where the median price of a house is $1.55 million. Authorities are also advising residents to take more precautions.

George Whitmore, president of a neighborhood group where the burglars have been active, thought he was safe living on a cul de sac. But his neighbors were promptly hit by thieves when they went out to dinner and the movies for a few hours.

“Their pattern apparently was identified and the burglars came in,” Whitmore said. “We advised them to make sure their homes look like they’re occupied.”

Residents say they are worried about the burglaries. But Whitmore acknowledged “there is a lot of wealth here to be picked up illicitly,” and noted that this is not the first time thieves have come looking for riches in Greenwich.

“We’re used to it,” Whitmore said. “Don’t like it, but used to it.”

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