Some Northern Virginia restaurant owners have returned home recently to find thieves targeted their homes while they were away at work.
Fairfax County Police see a pattern in home break-ins in Fair Oaks, the Herndon area and Ashburn. All of the victims are of Chinese descent and own Chinese restaurants.
The thieves initially try to enter by breaking through windows, police said. Once inside, they are taking cash, jewelry, designer handbags and, in one case, rare Chinese liquor. They are passing up valuable electronics left in plain view.
"Clearly they know what they want and know what they are looking for and know the times to be there to do it," Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said.
Residents in one of the Fairfax County subdivisions where a home was hit in mid-December make a show of their home security systems, with signs affixed to mailboxes or posted in yards.
Manoj Chaubal said these newest cases remind him of a series of break-ins in 2013 in Loudoun and Fairfax targeting families of Indian descent and their gold jewelry. Even though he works at home, he now takes extra precautions.
"I definitley started putting the alarms on," said Chaubal. Whenever I go out to pick up the mail or something I take a peek or just walk around. I do keep an eye out nowadays."
Herndon Town Council member Graca Han Wolf lives not far from the subdivision and also remembers those earlier break-ins targeting families of Indian descent. Now this.
"I really view it as the most horrible form of racial profiling where people have taken a perspective ethnically, racially or socially based and made a judgment call and said, We're going to target these people on purpose," said Wolf.
Like police, she recognizes that some victims might be too embarrassed to come forward. She urges them to reconsider.
"My advice for folks who are victims of crime is to speak up and speak out," said Wolf. "By not speaking up, you are allowing potentially another family be victimized."