Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter
Plano police are reporting a spike in burglaries targeting Asian homes where thieves can find high quality gold jewelry that's been handed down for generations.
A national crime ring targeting Asian households is still showing a "steady" presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to Plano police.
"This is a large organization, we've made arrests, other agencies have made arrests, and they just continue to come in," said Officer David Tilley, Plano police spokesman.
In July of 2013, Plano authorities reported a spike in these targeted burglaries in their city as well as in other places, like Irving, Carrollton, and neighboring areas in Collin County.
Tilley said the problem is actually national and has been tracked down to a group of criminals entering the country from Colombia, starting in Houston, and then spreading their web throughout the United States.
The method of operation is consistent: the burglars ring a doorbell, perhaps several times, to make sure no one is home.
If there is no answer, the group, usually men, enters the backyard through an unlocked side gate, breaking into the home by kicking through a back door or window.
The thieves are known to target Asian households specifically because of a cultural tradition to pass down decades, even centuries-old gold jewelry and heirlooms.
Traditional jewelry is usually 22 or 24 carat gold, and authorities believe the metal is melted down nearly as soon as it is stolen.
While Plano police have made arrests, they estimate they’ve seen as many as 10 targeted burglaries happen since September 2013. In neighboring Allen, police report four in the same time period.
"For every one person that we take off the streets, there's no way to potentially measure how many other potential burglaries could have taken place," Tilley said. "We look at it as basically small victories for us."
He warns that with warm weather, crime like home break-ins, tends to increase.
It's a message Plano Realtor Jamuna Thill is trying to spread to her clients, neighbors and community members.
"For us in our culture, jewelry is handed out, generations," Thill said.
Thill was a victim of jewelry thieves years ago.
"It was really hard to go back to my mom and say, I lost it. It took me almost a year to let her know," she said. "This is really traumatic for most people — to lose jewelry."
She said she’s telling her friends and clients not to make themselves an easy target by wearing lots of jewelry in public or even displaying obvious tokens in the yard that theirs is an Asian home.
Investigators have not figured out how the thieves choose their targets.