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Burglar using remote controlled garage door openers to access Sterling homes at night

Criminals use garage door openers to access homes in Loudoun Co. (ABC7)

At least nine homes in Sterling, Virginia have been burglarized throughout the last week, each break-in tied to an unlocked vehicle, police say.

Authorities explain the burglar isn't using a crowbar, but rather searching for unlocked automobiles containing remote controlled garage door openers. The burglar then boldly uses the device to partially open mechanical garages and enter occupied homes.

“We had a purse and a wallet taken," explained one victim who lives along the 46900 block of Seneca Ridge Drive in Sterling. "It's scary because this happened while we were all sleeping. We had no idea. They came in, took a couple of things and walked right out.”

The victim, who asked that her name not be published, says the burglar walked through the main level dining room where her 72-year-old mother-in-law is currently living.

"She had lower back surgery and can't use the stairs. This guy walked right by her and she had no clue. In fact, I had just assisted her to the bathroom about an hour earlier."

A review of the computer terminal connected to the family's garage door shows it partially lifted around 4:15 a.m. Wednesday. Two notoriously noisy Boxer and Mastiff pet dogs did not bark once.

The burglar grabbed a purse and wallet, but left two iPads and two laptop computers behind. A resident who lives a few blocks away later located the woman's purse in his garbage can. However, all of the victim's credit cards, cash, and social security card were gone. Also missing, her husband's original dog tags and rosary beads handed down by her late grandmother.

The family has since fortified their single-family red brick house, adding a surveillance camera and electronic key lock on the door between the garage and home. The family is keeping their exterior lights on each night too, in a neighborhood that noticeably lacks street lamps.

“We have triple checks to make sure all of the cars are locked before bed," the woman stated. "If it happens to you, don’t touch anything. Get the police over right away and note where they might have touched so prints can be taken.”

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is urging residents, especially in the Sterling area, to lock their cars and homes 24/7/365. As an additional precaution, residents can take their remote controlled garage door openers inside at night.

Although there is no firm suspect description, one victim told officers she caught a glimpse of the burglar, described as a light-skinned black or dark-skinned Hispanic male, approximately 6-foot tall, with a thin build and dark hair. He was wearing a baseball hat, khaki colored pants and may have been wearing gloves.

If you witness suspicious activity in your neighborhood, contact the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office at: (703) 777-1021.

“This burglar really needs to watch his back every minute of every day, and I sure hope he is now using my rosary beads. He needs them," the woman concluded.

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