CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla.- Sheriff Bill Prummell wants to warn residents of a potential threat to Charlotte County residents in the form of "distraction crimes" that are being seen in other Florida counties.

Law enforcement agencies in several South Florida counties report that an organized group of gypsy bandits have been committing a series of distraction burglaries. One member of the group will knock on the door of an unsuspecting resident and get them to come outside their home. Once the resident is outside, detectives say other members of the group will go into the house through the back, taking anything of value they can get.

In previous years, these groups have migrated with the seasonal population, but this year these other counties have noticed that they are active earlier than usual. In the past the illegal gypsy groups were less aggressive in their activity, too, focusing more on con-games and other monetary schemes.

Also in the past, after other larger counties in Florida began seeing activity by illegal gypsy groups, Charlotte County also had some sort of problems with similar criminal actions.

Sheriff Prummell would like to caution residents to be wary of strangers knocking on your front door and engaging you in a lengthy conversation. While you are talking with the stranger, their partner may be checking out your home or actually breaking into your house from the back.

If you do have someone who seems to be trying to distract you outside your house, there are several things you can do. Foremost is not to confront them yourself, but to gather as much descriptive information as possible. Get tag numbers and descriptions of vehicles. Get clothing and personal information on the person or people. Then call the Sheriff’s Office at (941) 639-2101.