Richland police say a couple of thieves are preying on elderly residents in town, stealing their money and safes.
In both burglaries, a Hispanic couple with two children, ages 9 to 12, approached the elderly residents at their home asking if they needed some yard work done, said Capt. Mike Cobb.
At some point, one suspect asked if he could exchange some $10 and $20 bills for a $100 bill in an apparent attempt to find out where the victims kept their money, he said.
One victim was able to exchange the money for a $100 bill, taking it from a drawer that had five additional bills, Cobb said.
The woman and two children then entered the home through a back door, creating a disturbance and apparently giving the man time to swipe the other bills from the drawer.
That incident occurred July 7 in the 100 block of Thayer Drive, Cobb said. When the suspects left, the couple found the five $100 bills were missing.
Two days later, Richland police were contacted by Sunnyside police after officers found two safes in a Dumpster that had been forced open.
One safe had paperwork belonging to a resident in the 200 block of Goethals Drive. An elderly couple live in the home and are cared for part time by a friend, Cobb said.
When officers asked the caretaker if there are any safes in the home, the caretaker said yes and went to check on them. That's when it was discovered they were missing, he said.
The safes are about two feet in size and contained coins, silver certificates and paperwork.
Officers then learned that on July 7 the suspects had asked to perform some tree service work at the home, and the female suspect spent some time on the back porch of the home with the caretaker.
Investigators say that likely gave the other suspect an opportunity to take the safes.
Cobb said the man also asked if he could exchange some money for a $100 bill, but when he was told there was no cash in the house, the suspects left in a hurry.
"They're obviously very good at what they're doing," Cobb said of the suspects. "They carried off two safes weighing 200-plus pounds apiece and (the victims) didn't realize they were gone."
Both adult suspects are said to be heavy set. The man is about 5-foot-10 to 5-foot-11 and in his early 50s. The woman is 5-foot-5, in her mid-40s.
The victims in both cases are in their late 80s and 90s, Cobb said.
Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to call Richland police at 628-0333.
Cobb warned residents to never let solicitors inside their home and always request to see a business license if approached by someone offering to do work.
Door-to-door solicitors are required to have a business license, he said. If someone shows up and can't produce a license, Cobb said residents can report it to police.