The following was submitted to YWN by Lakewood Police Chief Rob Lawson:
Recently, we have several complaints from residents concerning thefts of cash and jewelry in which the suspect is the “cleaning lady” hired by the homeowner. In the majority of the cases in which we can immediately identify the suspect, we have been very successful in getting the property returned; however, in many of the recent thefts, establishing the identity and location of the suspect has been a problem.
Unfortunately, all too often we like to think the best of people and trust them far more than is prudent to do so. This is fine when dealing with another member of the community but when you are giving access to your home (in which you may have thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry accessible) to an unknown individual off the street, common sense should tell you that this is totally inappropriate.
When we receive the theft complaints, that may not come until days or even weeks after the fact when the homeowner realizes that valuables are missing, a patrol officer takes the initial report and the case is diligently followed up by a detective. It is not unusual for the homeowner to be unable to provide us with the cleaning lady’s last name, address or even a license plate number. This makes investigating the case much more difficult, especially when the suspect is now “laying low.”
If you are employing people off the street I strongly recommend the following:
1. Get the person’s full name and address. If you are hiring someone who is from the Latino Community, it is common for them to have a given name, middle name and two surnames (mother’s and father’s). Ask them to show you some type of official document with their full name on it- a passport is ideal for this purpose.
2. If possible, get the person’s home telephone number in addition to a cell phone number.
3. Take a picture of the person. With cell phone cameras this can be done unobtrusively or better yet be obvious about it and it may serve as a deterrent.
4. When the person drives up to your residence or is dropped off, record the license plate number as this will provide us with the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle.
5. Do not leave cash, jewelry, pocketbooks, wallets or any item of value that is small and easily concealable accessible to the cleaning person.
6. Always check your windows and doors to insure that they are locked after the cleaning person has departed. Occasionally, we get burglary reports in which the homeowner will insist that they never leave the windows unlocked and yet entry is made into the house through an undamaged window the same day as the cleaning person was in the house.
The above suggestions are not foolproof but if you follow them, you will be much less likely to be the victim of a theft (or burglary) by a cleaning person and if you are, there is a much greater likelihood that we will be able to locate the suspect and get your property returned.
Chief Rob Lawson.
(YWN Lakewood News Team)