Police said a Chicago man, charged Wednesday with residential burglary, pretended to be a Wilmette village employee in order to get into his victim’s house.
James J. Miller, 32, of 3721 W. Belmont in Chicago, was scheduled to appear Friday in Cook County Court, Skokie, on one count or burglary, stemming from a July 5 incident on the 200 block of Briar Drive.
Police said Miller and an as-yet-unidentified companion approached the elderly Briar Drive residents shortly after 1 p.m. July 5, saying they were village employees and construction contractors. Using that ruse to get into the house, police said, the two then tried to confuse and distract their victims before leaving the area in a white-colored SUV. After they left, the victim discovered money had been removed from the homeowner’s bedroom.
Following an investigation, Miller was taken into custody at the LaSalle County Jail, where he was being held on an unrelated residential burglary charge. He was brought to Wilmette, and a victim positively identified him in a lineup.
Police are still seeking the second alleged offender, Wilmette Police Chief Brian King said.
King said the village experiences roughly half a dozen “ruse” burglaries each year. In such cases, a crew of burglars will approach elderly residents and pretend to be either from the village, or from a public utility company, he said.
One member of the thieves’ crew will ask their victims to step outside, or ask to come inside to conduct an inspection. During that time, a second or third member of the crew will enter the house to commit the theft.
King emphasized that utility companies and municipalities do not come unannounced to residents’ homes, or offer to perform services that the residents didn’t previously request.
“If someone you did not call appears at your door requesting access, do not let them in, do not follow them to your yard,” he said. “Instead, immediately call the Wilmette Police Department by dialing 911.”
King also asked residents to be protective of elderly neighbors, since that group is often targeted by ruse burglars, and not to hesitate to call police if circumstances warrant it.
“If you observe two or three individuals descend on a neighbor’s home, especially an elderly couple’s home, check it out by stopping by or calling,” King said. “Attempt to get a license plate number to later report to the police if you believe it’s suspicious.”