There is a disturbing tourism trend in recent years according to reports from the Montreal Police. These tourists are more interested in breaking-and-entering than poutine, however. Le Journal de Montreal reports that most of these unwanted visitors are Chilean tourists that are part of what the FBI calls the "South American Theft Group"
In the past two years, there have been 20 reported cases of breaking-and-entering across Quebec, with most of the reports coming out of Montreal. This is a new trend in organized crime, as these would-be criminals rob homes for cash and jewelry and send their haul back to their home country. Just last week, the SPVM arrested three would-be burglars.
TL;DR There is a new trend of criminal tourism that is sweeping the nation. Predominantly Chilean organized crime groups are sending agents to Canada and Quebec to burglarize and rob empty homes. Police are on alert and are asking anyone to report any suspicious activity.
While police around Quebec and Montreal have been able to successfully stop most burglaries, they're asking residential neighbourhoods to be on high alert for suspicious activity. Just last year, police investigators found over 20 intrusions in Montreal, mostly happening in the Hampstead neighbourhood. Most intruders were arrested and charged.
Criminals typically target empty homes to avoid violent encounters. They'll usually be in teams of two or three, with one ringing the doorbell while the others break in from the back of the house. After they get what they want, they'll quickly fence the goods and money to their home country where it is dispersed.
In New York state, over $1 million in goods was stolen over the course of a year. Three Chileans were arrest on breaking-and-entering and grand theft charges. In Australia, a team of eight Chilean burglars were caught by local police. The FBI reports that this is a sophisticated international criminal network and that it's extremely difficult to find their source and leadership.
Meanwhile, the Hampstead intruders from last year's arrests in Montreal made off with over $200,000 dollars in cash and jewelry after just a few minutes in someone's house. Two of the burglars were caught with stolen goods, arrested, and charged with 15 months in prison.
In 2017, a 23-year old Peruvian man was arrested for committing three robberies in three weeks after he was caught trying to sell stolen electronics. He managed to steal thousands in clothing, appliances, cash, and jewelry before being caught by the SPVM. He was released and deported after 9 months in prison.
One of the biggest arrests happened in Toronto last April. Regional authorities caught and identified 14 Chilean visitors who made off with over $2.7 million dollars after robbing over 400 homes in the Greater Toronto Area. After a five-day sting operation, local police finally arrested the suspects after an Oakville resident called in some suspicious looking activity in his neighbourhood.
Montreal police and Quebec authorities warn people to stay alert and pay attention to their neighbourhoods especially if your neighbours are going on vacations for extended periods of time. This apparent "South American Theft Group" operates efficiently and internationally, so stay vigilant!