Authorities have sent out a warning to residents in wealthy areas across the Oklahoma City metro, telling homeowners to be on the lookout for traveling groups who seem to burglarize neighborhoods around Oklahoma City every spring.
While Nichols Hills has been notoriously popular among these thieves, Oklahoma City Police also said they have seen several gypsy crimes in other neighborhoods across the city.
Police say the groups often rent vehicles then travel cross-country in search of places to burglarize. Nichols Hills Police Chief Richard Mask said in the past the groups would drive around neighborhoods to scope out houses and look for people leaving their homes. Once they saw someone leave a house, he explained, they pulled over and dropped off a group. That group, usually women, went to several houses in the same neighborhood and rang doorbells. If nobody answered the door quickly, they women would check to see if the door was unlocked. If it were locked, the women would move to the next house. If it were unlocked, they would go right in and head to the master bedroom.
"It takes just a few seconds to get inside your house, find that master bedroom, find that jewelry box and take your grandmother's jewelry, your husband's Rolex, any property that you may have laying out that's available," Chief Mask explained.
Nan Frates, who has lived in Nichols Hills for decades, said she was no stranger to the gypsies. She has come to expect the warning this time of year as the weather warms up. It has been her signal to keep her eyes open for anything out of place because her neighborhood has been hit by gypsies over the years.
"She was working in her front yard on one side of the house," recalled Frates about a neighbor, "and a garage door was open into the kitchen and they just came in very quickly, seemed to find the most valuables she had and left and she had no idea until she was missing a diamond engagement ring and some other things and it was very sad. They just came in very quickly, seemed to find the most valuables she had and left. She had no idea until she was missing a diamond engagement ring and some other things and it was very sad."
Chief Mask says these gypsies have been doing this for years, and that has made it hard to catch them. He explained that on several occasions, the women have entered homes when a homeowner was on the way to answer the door. He remembered one case when this happened and the gypsy got away with a Rolex and a diamond wedding ring that were both sitting on a table in the hallway. He said she was probably in the house less than a minute but was still able to steal expensive valuables.
Frates said she has heard of similar situations.
"A friend had an incident where they did walk in the house and [a thief] was there and they said, ‘Oh, you aren't Mrs. Robinson.' She said ‘no.' So they apologized and left and she called the police."
Chief Mask said these traveling groups will also pose as magazine salespeople or contractors to help around the house. Police said they hope people will listen to the warning and lock their doors, even if they are on a brief walk or working in the yard. Chief Mask also said neighbors should be on the lookout for each other and if they see anything suspicious to call police.