WEST CHESTER, Ohio - West Chester police are warning local homeowners of a possible threat from a gypsy group expected to target people in the Tri-State soon.
The warning originated with a local police group called Southwest Ohio Intelligence. It includes representatives from many different local police agencies who meet on a regular basis to share information about crimes and trends.
This warning is very specific. Police say the Irish Travelers are expected to arrive by the end of April. They travel in a convoy of about 25-30 trucks. Police believe they could set up in the Mason area and then branch out from there. The group is organized and travels around the country trying to scam people or get into homes in order to steal small items. Women and children as young as 14 are involved with the schemes.
There are several scams that, police say, members of this group use to victimize homeowners:
- Black top scam overcharges people for work that actually is only cosmetic.
- Tree trimming scam requires homeowners to point out the property lines. At that point a different group enters the home in order to steal items they can carry.
- Meter reading scam is another plan that tries to distract homeowners while someone else gets into the home looking for valuables.
The groups of Irish Travelers also scan neighborhoods looking for people who are distracted by working in their yards. Many times people work in their backyards, but leave the garage door open or front door unlocked. It is easy for people to walk into a home, look for valuables and then take off without the homeowner even knowing anyone was inside.
Police add that the Irish Travelers are based in states such as Tennessee and South Carolina. They often travel in the spring and summer in order to find homes with unlocked doors, easy access and a quick escape.