Police said Monday that they arrested three boys believed to be part of a scam for a fake basketball program, but burglaries have continued and they’re warning people to remain alert.
Officers arrested an 11-year-old boy and two 14-year-olds on May 31 in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood.
A man returned to his home near Juliet and Prior avenues about 7 p.m. and saw someone in his house, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.
The homeowner confronted him, then noticed two other boys in the house. He followed the juveniles down the block and noticed his wife’s purse was next to a nearby vehicle. The man told them he was calling police and one of the boys punched him in the side of the face, Ernster said.
The three ran away, but police found juveniles nearby that matched the suspects’ descriptions and arrested them on suspicion of theft by swindle. One also was arrested for burglary and assault.
The previous day, a woman who lived nearby had reported a similar crime to police.
She said three boys slit the screen on her locked storm door about 3 p.m. May 30, entered her house and stole her purse and iPhone when she was in another room, according to a police report. She described them as 12 to 14 years old and said they claimed to be collecting money for a basketball team.
“There were multiple reports of (people) seeing the suspects casing the neighborhood and entering backyards,” the police report continued.
Police issued a crime alert on Friday, saying they’ve seen a rash of burglaries in the Mac-Groveland and Summit-University neighborhoods since May 1.
There were two morel burglaries after the three boys were arrested, Ernster said.
Friday’s crime alert said police have received numerous calls about boys ages 11 to 16 going door to door soliciting donations for the “Webber Park Spartan Basketball Team.” If no one answers the door, the boys walk around the house looking for an entry point, police said. Once they find a way in, they burglarize the house.
Police recommend that residents keep their doors locked, even if they are in the yard; ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on their home when going on vacation; and call the Community Engagement Unit at 651-266-5485 to be added to the House Watch program, in which reserve officers will check on your home if you’re out of town.