Thieves target Pinellas residents using ‘distraction’ scheme

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on Monday issued a warning to residents about a group of criminals using a “distraction” scheme to gain access to homes.

According to the detectives, one perpetrator identifies himself as a government or utility employee at the front door and requests access to the backyard, telling the resident he is there to inspect a sea wall or water leak, check property lines, or trim trees.

While the homeowner is distracted, others enter the residence and steal items, including jewelry and cash. The residents are distracted about 15 to 20 minutes, investigators said.

Five incidents have been reported since January south of State Road 60 in south Pinellas, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office is asking residents to carefully scrutinize people offering to perform maintenance-related services or home inspections.

If approached at home by someone identifying himself or herself as a government employee or utility worker, ask for identification or contact the employer for verification. The resident should also lock doors and windows not in view while outside the home.

To report suspicious activity, call the sheriff’s office at (727) 582-6200. If a crime is in progress or there is an emergency, call 911.

If you have been a victim or have information related to these cases, call Detective Ken Roberts at (727) 582-6200. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or

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