Burglars target vacant homes

EUGENE, Ore. - Two burglars used free real estate apps to locate homes for sale before casing the houses to pick their targets, the Eugene Police Department said.

Officers arrested Janny L. Sumnall, 35, and Samuel S. Kinser, 39, for investigation of breaking into vacant homes.

Investigators said the duo located vacant homes for sale or in foreclosure using public records via cell phone apps like Zillow and Trulia. The suspects also looked for foreclosure notices posted on doors, police said.

The burglars would then observe the homes both day and night, often returning during the day to pose as cleaning people while they removed appliances and furniture, police said.

That guise helped foil watchful neighbors: In several cases, the burglars were contacted by neighbors who reportedly were thankful that they were there to "clean" the property, police said.

The duo faces at least 10 counts of burglary and three counts of selling stolen property, police said. Detectives have recovered thousands of dollars worth of stolen appliances and furniture, some of which had already been sold to unsuspecting buyers.

As a result of the investigation, detectives learned other burglars may be using this same method.

If you have been a victim of burglary under similar circumstances, police ask you to call Eugene Police Detective Holmberg at 541-682-5839.

Eugene Police shared these tips for home owners and realtors to avoid falling prey to this kind of crime:

  • Take steps to make your home appear occupied. Interior lights and sound (talk radio) on timers can help create an illusion that someone is home. Ask a neighbor to pick up flyers or circulars that may be left on your front porch
  • Have adequate exterior lighting. Motion sensor lighting is recommended for the front, side, driveway and backyard areas
  • Trim shrubs and other landscaping so that they cannot be used as hiding places.
  • Use good locks on all doors and windows
  • Keep window coverings closed
  • Consider an alarm
  • Consider renting your home or hiring a house sitter to prevent the home from being vacant during the selling period

Please talk with neighbors if you are a realtor or home seller so that they are aware of what to expect while the home is for sale. Encourage them to contact the Eugene Police Department non-emergency number (541) 682-5111 to report any suspicious activity

The Eugene Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit offers free home safety inspections for City residents wanting more security details specific to their property. Call (541) 682-5137 to make an appointment.