Burglaries A Problem In Scottsdale: Does Organized Crime and/or Immigration Play a Role?

By Cambria Schwartz

Within the past year Scottsdale, and other cities across the Valley, have been plagued by a slew of burglaries. Who’s the culprit? You may think that it’s local troubled teens or some of the many homeless people trying to steal goods to make ends meet. In actuality, these thieves are part of a South American organized crime ring which has also been causing trouble in other big cities like Los Angeles and New York. So what are they doing here in Arizona?

Border security is likely our trojan horse. With thousands of people trying to cross into the United States every day we are stretching our resources thin, making it harder for border security to do their job safely. Near the border migrants are either being placed in short term/ temporary shelters or are being bussed to larger cities like Tucson and Phoenix. Sometimes unsheltered street release is the only option border patrol has due to these limited resources. Border patrol, as well as smaller organizations, have tried to help with the growing immigration problems, but their call for more funds falls on deaf ears.

Deputy Director of Health and Human Services for Santa Cruz county Jose Arriola says, “Being a small community, our resources are stretched kind of thin. We’re making it work with what we have. This is a federal problem and unfortunately, it’s falling on us.” Arriola pleads with the federal government for some type of assistance or relief. So how does this directly relate to the ongoing burglary investigations in Scottsdale?

Since October 2023 police throughout Arizona have worked together to identify a total of 35 cases related to these burglaries, all having the same MO. Police have pieced together an idea of their process when breaking into houses. The burglars wait until dark before smashing windows of houses to gain entry. They specifically target homes that back-up to marshes or golf courses for easy access. They then bypass living rooms, kitchens, and other areas to quickly make their way to the master bedroom. It’s been reported that they ransack the bedroom and closet in search of small, high-value items such as cash, jewelry, and designer purses. These break-ins usually last about eight minutes, demonstrating their skill as thieves. Police officials encourage residents in these target areas to hide their valuables in a safe and to keep outside lights on as a precaution.

At least two cases have resulted in arrests. A total of seven people, all of Chilean descent. Despite their expertise these people had no previous criminal records in the United States. Scottsdale police chief Jeff Walther says in an update to citizens, “This criminal trend has been a continuous and escalating problem. It is not one group or ring responsible for this crime series. This is transnational organized crime.” With many police departments in the Valley working together, hopefully it is only a matter of time before a large part of this organization is brought to justice.