Woman says thieves using list of Indian families in burglaries

Woman says thieves using list of Indian families in burglaries

VANCOUVER, Wash. - An entire community may be at risk of having their homes burglarized and their most precious items stolen, because members of the metro area's Eastern Indian community say thieves have a directory of hundreds of families' names and phone numbers.

The thieves have already broken into at least 30 homes. That's not an official number from police, but the latest victim said Thursday it's an accurate number.

Shilpa Patel, whose Northeast Vancouver home was burglarized Monday, said families in their community are very close and share information. There's a directory of as many as 300 families that contains their names phone numbers and addresses. And now that directory, Patel said, is being used by thieves as they target homes including hers.

Late Monday after she returned from work, Patel found her sliding back door smashed through, her bedroom turned upside down and her jewelry boxes emptied of every gold piece – about $40,000 worth of family heirlooms.

"Everything is gone," she said. "I don't think I can replace it anymore, and it's very heartbreaking."

Patel said Eastern Indian community members have confirmed among themselves at least 30 such burglaries since March. She said the break-ins and thefts ramped up after a Portland home was burglarized and thieves took a list of names, phone numbers and addresses of hundreds of Indian families.

"And it looks like they have been picking numbers or names from that directory and breaking in," she said.

Washington County has had at least four such burglaries since March, and now the sheriff's office is just learning about that list.

"Any information that is out there that helps a criminal, obviously is not good,”" said Sgt. Bob Ray with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Ray said his office is sharing information with the Vancouver Police Department as they try to catch the thieves.

But there is still a growing fear among community members, according to Patel.

"It needs to be stopped one way or the other," she said.

Indian community members are now asking neighbors to watch their homes. The burglars only break in through a back door and only during school hours. In fact, Patel said the thefts stopped during the summer but as soon as school started again so did the burglaries.

Additionally, she said two of her friends and neighbors were burglarized over the weekend.