The Merced County Sherriff is warning Winton residents about an increased number of daytime burglaries in the area.
Within the last three months, Winton residents have been victimized by 37 burglaries.
The culprits, said Winton Sheriff’s Detective Buck Ledford, are young kids skipping out on school.
“It is normally a busy (crime) area,” said Ledford, who is investigating the crimes. “But I have become aware of different groups of juveniles that are actively breaking into houses in the area.”
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Up to 15 of the recent burglaries can be attributed to juvenile offenders, Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie said.
“There are at least three different groups involved in the vast majority of the daytime burglaries,” Ledford said.
Most of the thefts have been occurring during the day when people are away at work and the homes are generally empty.
“They’re getting into these homes after school, before the residents get home,” Ledford said.
The kids also make sure the homes are empty before they attempt to enter.
“They use lookouts, they ring doorbells, they knock on doors,” Ledford said. “When no one answers, they get access to the homes through the backyards generally. "
Once inside, the culprits ransack the homes, looking for valuables. Sheriff’s officers believe the kids then take the loot to adults in Winton that resell the property to make money.
If anyone bought items previously and now believes they are stolen, Ledford asked that the call the sheriff’s department. He said he would work to return the property to the rightful owner.
Residents are being warned to check that all of their doors and windows are locked before leaving home and store valuable items in locked safes. Residents may also want to invest in audible alarm systems, MacKenzie said.
The sheriff’s office is asking Winton residents to report any school-aged kids hanging out in the streets during the school day.
“Just because they may be 12, 13, 14 years old, residents should understand that they still could be suspects,” Ledford said. “Especially if they are new to the neighborhood or milling about one house.”