The burglars struck the upscale home of a South Asian family in Great Falls one evening in early February, snatching gold jewelry and hauling off a large safe containing valuables worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a search warrant.
Police believe a skilled professional crew may have carried out the burglary, one of at least 23 across Fairfax County that have predominantly targeted homes of families of Asian or Middle Eastern descent, police said. The losses have been staggering: upward of $1 million.
“These people may be targeted because they own businesses and they keep money in their house,” said 2nd Lt. Tim Settle, supervisor of the criminal investigations section for the Fair Oaks District station of the Fairfax County police. “The burglars realize they keep high-end items inside their home.”
Police said the burglaries began in mid-October and have carried into the new year, striking homes in Fairfax City, Vienna, Great Falls, McLean and Oakton among others. The cases may also be tied to others in Loudoun County and Manassas.
The largest group of victims has been those of Korean descent. Settle said it is unclear how the burglars are choosing their victims, but it could be the result of surveillance or online searches for families fitting a particular profile.
Settle said investigators believe that, besides the victims’ ethnicities, the cases may be related because the perpetrators have entered through the back of homes and have usually struck in the late afternoon or evening. In each case, the homeowners have been away at the time of the burglary, and no injuries have resulted.
Settle said just three of the burglaries have accounted for more than $800,000 of the losses. Items taken include jewelry, designer handbags, gold coins and cash, according to a search warrant filed in Fairfax County court.
In the Great Falls case targeting the South Asian family, the burglary occurred between 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 at a home located on Park Royal Drive, according to the search warrant. A homeowner came home to discover the items had been stolen and called 911.
Detectives wrote in the search warrant that a rear glass door of the home had been broken and the master bedroom, other bedrooms and a closet in the foyer had been ransacked. The homeowners did not return a call seeking comment.
Fairfax County police officials said they have stepped up patrols in neighborhoods where the burglaries have occurred. They theorized it has helped lead to a drop in the number of cases in the new year.
The homes of Asians and Middle Easterners have been targeted before, locally and across the nation. In 2015, authorities in Loudoun County were investigating burglaries targeting the homes of people of Indian descent. And in 2014, authorities in Montgomery County said an international ring based out of Houston was targeting the homes of people of Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian backgrounds.
Similar cases have played out in New Jersey, Georgia, California and Nevada in recent years.
Settle would not comment on whether surveillance cameras have captured footage of the thieves in any of the current cases and did not offer any descriptions of the criminals, but he encouraged homeowners to remain vigilant about what is going on in their neighborhoods.
“Be aware of anything suspicious,” Settle said. “Watch over neighbors’ houses. If you see something that is not quite right, report it to police. If you don’t have neighborhood watch, contact the local department about setting one up.”