Traveling organized crime group burglarizing homes across Houston area, police say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A traveling, organized crime group is burglarizing homes across Houston, Harris County and surrounding cities while owners stand distracted just feet away, authorities say.

Memorial Villages Police Chief Ray Schultz told ABC13 a small group of men are driving around pretending to be contractors.

Schultz says that residents living in Memorial Villages, West University, Conroe and west Harris County have all been targeted.

In one home surveillance video, a man is seen jumping out of a black SUV.

"Maybe anything from doing work on a fence, doing work at a neighbor's house, trimming some trees," Schultz said. "They use a ruse to try to get people to leave their house for a few moments."

"As soon as you step away from the door of the house there will be an accomplice who will sneak into the house and very quickly grab whatever they can. The crime takes just a few minutes," Schultz continued.

Schultz said the accomplice runs to the primary bedroom and bathroom looking for small valuables like purses, wallets and jewelry.

"They've got a full mask on. When I say a mask, they seem to be wearing most of the time a balaclava or bandana," the police chief described. "Very high on the face with a baseball cap pulled down very low so you can pretty much only see their eyes."

In the video above, a homeowner can be heard asking the man why he won't let him see his face.

"Pull that mask down," the homeowner said.

"OK, that's not a problem, sir, but I'm doing the work for the neighbor. I'm not doing nothing for you," the stranger responds.

Schultz warns that you should never open your front door for an unexpected solicitor. And if you have a doorbell model that allows it, always use the speaker to communicate.

The homeowner whose voice is heard in the video said that he never hired anyone to trim trees.

After that, the masked man walked back to the black SUV he arrived in.

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