Police in North Texas have arrested five people in connection with a string of burglaries that appear to have targeted the Asian American community recently.
The suspects were arrested on felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity after they allegedly approached Asian American homes dressed as delivery workers, first ensuring that the homes were empty, Plano police department officials said. The thefts took place across several days starting on Oct. 29.
Jennifer Chapman, the department’s public information officer, told NBC News that Asian Americans may have been targeted because of the tendency of some community members to store large sums of cash or other valuables in their homes.
Attorneys for four of the suspects — Juan Pinto-Rodriguez, 32 ; Luis Tafur-Tovar, 33; Helmer Patino-Calderon, 43; and Jeisson Tafur-Tovar, 29 — did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Wesley Spencer, who represents the fifth suspect, Adrianna Abello-Ruiz, 24, had not yet met with his client and declined to comment.
Chapman said that the suspects, all from the Houston area, stayed at an Airbnb in Dallas. They went to the victims' homes in the middle of the day, Chapman said, before cutting off the electricity, which turned off surveillance cameras.
Police caught the suspects after they tried to break into a home where the residents, who were napping, called authorities.
“There was a pattern that the detectives and our crime analysts noticed,” Chapman said. “The way that they were cutting the electric boxes was very distinct. That’s something that does not always occur in these types of burglaries.”
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Plano is home to a significant Asian American community, which makes up more than one-fifth of the city’s total population, according to the Census.
Chapman said that burglaries targeting Asian Americans in the area are not uncommon, and that for the past several years, the department’s Crime Prevention Unit has hosted meetings for Asian American residents with the aim of helping them better protect themselves and their property. To avoid similar incidents, Chapman said that it’s critical for community members to document their belongings. Additionally, residents should make noise when they hear a knock at the door, Chapman said.
“People are showing up in the afternoon,” she said. “Don’t remain quiet inside. Saying, 'Hello' or 'How can I help you?' You don’t have to open the door. That way, the person does know that there’s somebody in there and hopefully they just move on.”
The suspects were being held at the Collin County Jail.