KENT, Wash. - The Kent Police Department is alerting the community about a crime scheme targeting the elderly: officers said they have received several reports of a tag-team-trio of hustlers stealing jewelry.
"These criminals are unfortunately targeting the most vulnerable and we want to do what we can to get our people’s property back," said Commander Robert Hollis of Kent Police Department.
Hollis said the suspects are believed to be two women and a man driving different cars during each case.
The group has gotten away with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry like necklaces, rings, bracelets and watches including one man’s Rolex.
He explained their scheme, saying the thieves approach an older person while they are alone, typically in a parking lot, working in their yard, or walking. Then they start a conversation pretending to know the senior citizen.
"The [suspects] often get into their personal space. So, they’ll hug them, they’ll touch them," said Hollis. "There’s no sales pitch, nothing. They’re literally just walking up to our community members acting like they know them which only leaves the victim more confused about what’s going on. And in those moments that’s when the jewelry is often taken from our victims."
Most are confused and too embarrassed to tell anyone they were robbed. That’s why police said they think there are more cases out there than what’s reported.
"We want you to know that it’s okay. It’s just property. But we want to know, we want to be able to capture these people," said Hollis. "Especially when it involves some of our most vulnerable members of our community and we want to make sure that everyone is safe in the City of Kent, but especially our vulnerable seniors."
Cindy Robinson is the facility manager at the Kent Senior Activity Center. She said she thinks some people probably thought they didn’t recognize the suspects because they’ve been in isolation during the pandemic.
"I’m certain during that whole time they’re feeling like, ‘Who is this person? I should know them. I’m just going to act like I know them because it’s going to be less awkward. I don’t want to embarrass anyone.’ And truth be told they’re being preyed on," said Robinson.
The center is a safe space for seniors to stay active, connected and learn. The team offers multiple classes to alert its members of scams and warning signs.
"The senior center staff want to be there to help people handle the situations that come up, age in place and help them understand that we all can get caught up in a situation like this," said Robinson. "It’s very frustrating when someone targets a senior because here is somebody who has worked hard their whole life. They have been productive contributing members of society. And then for someone to take advantage of somebody’s good heart is incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking."
Hollis said police are checking area pawn shops, but so far none of the stolen jewelry seems to be showing up at the stores. The commander also mentioned these thefts are happening in neighboring cities.
"People committing these robberies sometimes do graduate up to bigger type crimes. And anything that we can do to try and make our community safer, even with everything that’s going on with the new legislation, we want to be able to help. We want to be able to return the property if we can," said Hollis.
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