By Kim Hynes & Brian Heap
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
12:02 PM CST, January 14, 2013
Update: Wichita police say they've received dozens of phone calls from people saying salespeople had come to their homes. The salespeople may have been actually selling vacuum cleaners, but they don't have a license and police still think they are connected to the burglaries.
The Reno County Sheriff's Office also contacted Wichita police with possible names and descriptions of those believed to be involved in the case, but it's not known if any arrests have been made.
A warning from Wichita Police about a recent crime trend involving thieves posing as door-to door salesmen.
The crooks are pretending to sell Kirby Vacuum Cleaners, but investigators say what they're really doing is scoping out neighborhoods to find easy burglary targets.
They learn who is home during the day and who is not. The thieves will come back a week or two later when the home is empty.
"What they typically are doing is going in and stealing jewelry and other small items as well as cash," WPD spokesman Lt. Doug Nolte said.
Investigators believe the team is responsible for at least two dozen home burglaries dating back to early November. It took investigators some time to connect the thefts to reports of suspicious characters all over town.
Three homes were burglarized Thursday night. They are in the 2400 block of North Parkdale, 700 block of South Holyoke and the 1800 block of West Bristlecone.
Police believe the phony salespeople had gone to these homes or neighborhoods in the last few weeks and knew when it would be safe to return.
"It's just very upsetting. I could hardly sleep last night," said victim Rick Warner. He and his wife came home from work to find their home ransacked and thousand of dollars worth of gold and heirloom jewelry missing.
The thieves broke in by prying a door to the walk-out basement.
"I'm gonna put a couple of 2x6s over this sucker," said Warner. "They ain't getting through this door again."
The Kirby Vacuum Company has two Wichita distributors. The company does door to door sales, but a spokeswoman says salespeople are always dressed professionally with button down shirts and ties. They also carry Kirby ID cards.
Kirby Vacuum issued a statement about the situation. "Kirby was upset to learn of the individuals in Wichita who have taken advantage of innocent consumers. The company apologizes to these unsuspecting consumers as they relied on the rogue salespeople's misrepresentations of having an affiliation with the Kirby name. The company is available for any questions the Wichita Police may have and will assist in the investigation to catch anyone pretending to be affiliated with Kirby."
Nolte said witnesses have described the fake salespeople as a man and woman. They may be driving a white Ford 10-passenger van with a crooked front bumper and out of state license plate.
If you see these people in your neighborhood, you're asked to call Wichita's burglary division at 316-268-4141.
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