Deputies: Ring of thieves targeting the elderly

Alachua County Sheriff's Office: Traveling group may have hit several states

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is trying to identify a group of traveling criminals that are targeting the elderly.

According to officials the criminals are traveling in packs and targeting assisted-living facilities where the group is burglarizing residences and stealing jewelry, among other things.

Investigators believe the group has struck in several states.

The woman pictured in surveillance photos is one of the suspects and law enforcement officials believe she is of Polish descent.

She commonly wears scrubs to blend in with staff, deputies said.

Law enforcement is encouraging employees, residents and visitors at assisted living facilities to be alert for any suspicious activity.

Detectives are asking any victims that believe they may have been affected by this criminal group to notify their local law enforcement agency and make a police report.

The most recent crimes took place in Alachua County but authorities said the group has taken the crime nationwide. 

News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said that groups like these prey on the elderly because they assume they're not as observant or questioning. 

"They are senior citizens and they're assuming that they may not be sharp or quick to question them if they come there," Smith said.

According to police reports the criminals try to blend in with the staff of the assisted living facilities they hit by dressing up like nurses.

Smith also said that since the thieves seem to be targeting jewelry, family members can take steps to try and help keep their loved ones belongings from disappearing.

"I would suggest if you have someone that you know in an assisted living facility to make sure that their valuables are documented. Photograph them, videotape them and keep a written log of everything that they have if these things come up missing," Smith said.

He said that another important step is making sure the facility they are living in continuously introduces any new staff to their loved ones.

Smith said that keeping doors locked and investing in alarm systems is also an important measure that could help protect them.