This was the headline of the news article posted on Global News: “Crime Tourism, A Growing Problem in Canada“, March 21st 2019. In April last year, 15 Chilean nationals, responsible for more than 400 residential break-ins in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding neighbourhoods, were arrested by Halton Regional Police. In addition, back in September 2015, 12 Chilean nationals were arrested by Toronto Police—recovering over $2.7 million in goods seized. “SATG’s” (South American Theft Groups) appear to not only be hitting Toronto and surrounding suburbs, but also cities across Canada.
Canadians often forget how privileged our society is and how other countries perceive us – with all our civil liberties, democratic culture and seemingly relaxed legal system. As our reputation proceeds us, a group of foreign tourists from Chile have popularized and coined a thrilling and potentially rewarding activity- with very little repercussions: crime tourism (home burglary).
Recently, a client of Avante Security residing in South Rosedale, Toronto, alerted our Control Centre about 2 suspicious female suspects that were knocking on their front door. Upon answering, they claimed to be canvassing homes for a church survey on Spanish-speaking adults. Upon further investigation of the resident’s CCTV, the two female suspects did not knock on any other neighbouring doors. This incident is consistent with the modus operandi (MO) of these organized criminal enterprises.
These foreign organized crime groups work in teams; often 2 or 3 males and 1 female. Typically, the female approaches the target house and knocks on the door repeatedly. If someone answers, they pretend to conduct a survey or check on home services as they aim to avoid confrontation. However, if the house is determined to be empty, the female will signal to her accomplices to come over. The male team often goes around back of the home to attempt entry, through the first or second floor by smashing a window, while the female stands out front to keep guard. Their primary target is jewellery, watches and designer handbags. They will also search for a safe. They typically flee through the backyard to an awaiting rental car on a neighbouring street.
Patterns have shown crime syndicate from South American counties, mainly Chile. It’s expected that the rate of crime tourism will increase in the near future. On March 9th, 2019, two Chileans that were caught breaking into a home pleaded guilty and were only sentenced to 3-months in jail, less 21 days for time served. The lenient sentencing may be taken as a signal to prompt future attempts.
Crime tourism doesn’t just happen in Toronto or other affluent suburbs like Oakville, it’s been happening across Canada and other counties like Australia – it’s an international phenomenon. Like many countries, Canada encourages foreign tourists to benefit our economy so, as federal funding is proposed to increase, we urge Canadians to be alert and take preventative measures.