Theft Suspects Pose as Utility Workers

Times Staff Writer

More than two dozen senior citizens in Los Angeles have been victimized in recent weeks by people who pose as utility workers, then steal valuables once they enter their prey's property, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said Monday.

In February, the Los Angeles Police Department reported 28 such cases, with victims' ages ranging from 74 to 91.

"The criminals call and say, 'We need to check your water, your electricity meter, your fuse box' and when they arrive, the victims let them in," said Janelle Erickson, press deputy for Greuel, adding that as many as six people were allegedly involved in the scheme. "There's usually two of them at a time, and one of them distracts the victims while the other one steals their property."

Many crimes occurred on Mondays and Tuesdays between noon and 4 p.m., Erickson said.

The Department of Water and Power and the Southern California Gas Co. advise residents to be wary of anyone calling to make an appointment.

"The DWP and gas company said there is no reason for utility employees to enter a home unsolicited or to even call and schedule an appointment to come to the house," Erickson said. "If anyone does that, they should be considered suspicious."

The LAPD advises residents not to open the door to a stranger, always to insist on proper identification and, if someone wants to enter your home, to shut the door immediately and call 911 or (887) ASK-LAPD.

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