San Diego

Police are alerting senior citizens about a roving gang of thieves who use children as decoys while they pilfer residents' homes.

Since August, a group of at least six adults has been knocking on the doors of elderly homeowners asking if their children can use a bathroom, said Bill Robinson, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department.

After being let in, some of the thieves sneak into bedrooms and steal cash and jewelry, while others occupy residents in conversation. Police believe the group watches a potential victim's home from a car, possibly a blue Volvo.

The trademark of the thieves is their brightly colored long dresses and robes. Their wardrobe and method are similar to that of a group of transients that police say victimized homeowners in San Diego a few years ago. No arrests were made at that time, Robinson said.

Two women and one man were arrested this week at a Mission Valley hotel, where police found more than $20,000 in valuables. Two children were also in the room. The three suspects, who gave aliases to police, are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each at Las Colinas Jail in Santee and the downtown County Jail.

The children, ages 3 months and 2 years, were taken to Hillcrest Receiving Home.

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