BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Oakland County authorities are keeping residents updated on Chilean gangs they say are targeting high-end homes.

More than 200 people attended a town hall on Monday night at Christ Church Cranbrook, including Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher, Captain Tom Van Simaeys of the Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Safety, and State Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion Township).

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Officials say teams of criminals from Central and South America are taking advantage of the border crisis and weak federal immigration laws to enter the U.S. and break into homes in wealthy neighborhoods. The international criminals have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry, cash, and other items.

“I don’t think people realize the full extent of what’s happening in Oakland County,” said Steele. “The number of people at the town hall showed just how scared people are. Homeowners in Oakland County are living in constant fear that their homes may be next on the hit list. This is the kind of fear that makes you jump at every shadow you see in the window and go to sleep with the lights on.”

Sheriff Bouchard warned that the international gangs arrive in teams sent intentionally for robberies. He noted each gang member has a backpack with specialized equipment, including breaching tools, alarm jams, and more.

Steele recently pledged her support for a House Republican plan to target criminals illegally entering the country on behalf of transnational criminal organizations.

House Bill 5650 will increase penalties for crimes committed to benefit transnational crime organizations, like those targeting communities in Oakland County. It also increases penalties for felonies committed by individuals who return to the country illegally after being deported.

“The federal government is failing us on every level. If they won’t do their jobs, the burden falls on us,” said Steele.

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