Sacto 9-1-1
February 17, 2013
Robbers tricking residents to get into homes, police say

Helen Costello, 43.jpg

Shirley Costello, 22.jpg

By Anne Gonzales

Sacramento police issued a community alert about a recent rash of home-invasion robberies that prey primarily on the elderly.

The advisory says the suspects usually work in groups of two or four. Once inside, they allegedly distract the residents and steal from the house.

Two women have been arrested, while at least two suspects are still at-large.

On Jan. 21, two women knocked on the door of a house in the 6200 block of 2nd Avenue and asked if their young child could use the bathroom. The resident was hesitant to open the screen door, but the two women walked inside, brushing her to the side, according to reports. Two men also reportedly came inside the home and started talking to the resident, telling her they were former neighbors.

The resident was suspicious and called her son on a house intercom. The group left the house and drove away. The victim reportedly found money missing from her purse.

While police were investigating the alleged robbery, another call for a similar incident was reported. Two women and two men had reportedly knocked on a door using a different ruse, but the resident didn't open the door.

Police found the suspects' vehicle and arrested a mother and daughter, Helen Costello, 43, and Shirley Costello, 22, on suspicion of robbery, burglary, conspiracy and child endangerment. The 3-year-old boy was released to a family member.

The women are in custody in the Sacramento County Jail.

Police said similar incidents have been reported in the 4800 block of Perry Avenue; the 4600 block of Fruit ridge Road; the 3300 block of 63rd Street; the 3900 block of Mack Road; and the 10 block of Maple Drive between Dec. 29 and Jan. 21.

Suspects in these incidents have been seen driving a white van, and a gray four-door car. Neighbors are asked to report any suspicious activity or vehicles to police.

Police launched a "reverse 911," or automated phone call service recently with an alert to residents in targeted neighborhoods.

Police spokeswoman Michele Gigante asked residents in these neighborhoods to be on alert for strangers who come to the door and ask to get into the back yard to check water or electric connections, ask about nearby homes for sale, say they are former neighbors or ask to use the bathroom or phone.

"If someone comes to your door that you do not know or you do not feel comfortable with, close and lock your doors immediately," Gigante said. "If you feel you are in danger or they are trying to get into your home, dial 911 immediately."

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