April 19, 2024 at 10:55 a.m.


by Kenyon Bennett

“Burglary tourists” entering the United States are on the rise. Reports from other news media surfaced April 6 and April 14. The burglars, organized crime ring members, target upscale houses and estates, often stealing millions of dollars in goods or jewelry per site.

A recent incident occurred in Orange County, California. “Prosecutors say the break-in is part of a larger issue in which so-called ‘burglary tourists’ enter the United States from countries that qualify for visa waivers, allowing a visit of up to 90 days without a traditional tourist visa,” CNN reporters Jason Kravarik and Josh Campbell said. The burglars often hide in small groups in upscale neighborhoods and sometimes wear camouflaged clothing called ghillies. Most are from South America, CNN said. The burglars also utilize Wi-Fi jammers to prevent alarm companies from receiving alerts.

Chile is the “only remaining South American country that qualifies for the Department of Homeland Security’s waiver program, known as the ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorization,’ or ESTA,” CNN said. However, thieves from other South American countries are still entering the U.S.; Colombians, Peruvians, and Ecuadoreans have also committed the thefts.

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton told the Los Angeles Times in March these types of burglaries have become more active in recent months. 

The Department of Homeland Security needs to overhaul ineffective policies, including problems arising from ESTA waivers. Organized criminals are taking advantage of waivers. Current policies might have worked better in earlier years, but motives for international traveling have become more sinister and devious. The department must have effective guidance, staff, and necessary funding to operate capably. Unfortunately, all of this takes time.

Issues are difficult. No simple answers exist.