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DESI GOLD continues to get attention-

 crooks' attention ...

(by Sonal Kulshrestha)

Desi gold is causing grievances to desis across America, but more so in the Dallas Fort Worth metropolis. We have been hearing of 'string of burglaries' for quite some time. But now the perpetrators seems to have taken it a notch up. This was evident by the series of home invasions that occurred in Indian American homes in the suburbs of Dallas- Coppell, Allen and Flower Mound. 

(Photo Credit: Flower Mound Police Department)

 Johnisha Ann-Marie Williams

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In Coppell ... 

On Friday, December 5th at 10:54 pm, armed men committed a home invasion in Coppell.  The armed perpetrators wearing ski masks and gloves, entered the home, tied up the residents and stole cash, jewelry and electronics as per the statement issued by the Coppell Department.  

In Allen .. 

Then on Saturday, Dec 6th, two home invasions occurred in Allen between 7:00 and 9:00 pm. Both homes reportedly belonged to Indian Americans. News 8 spoke to one of the victims who said, "There was a knock at the door and we thought it was our friends, so my son opened the door. They just pushed him aside and three people came in and they just tied us." The three suspects were heavyset men who wore ski masks and gloves. She said the attackers bound the four of them with duct tape on their kitchen floor, holding them at gunpoint for 15 minutes before leaving with cash, laptops and jewelry. In the second home, the suspects entered through an open garage door. 

In Flower Mound .. 

On Dec 7th, Sunday, Flower Mound's Facebook page was abuzz with hundreds of comments when late evening an Indian American home fell target to home invasion. Three armed and masked men along with a woman barged into the house and ordered the family of six into the living room. One family member was assaulted but there were no serious injuries. The residents of Flower Mound were glued to their FB page and the police scanner website and app as they listened in on the exchanges between Flower Mound police and dispatchers. 

Arrests.. 

Flower Mound Police was able to arrest the young woman at the scene of crime that same evening leading to a series of events that culminated with the arrest of two more individuals by the Carrollton Police according to the official police statement. The forth suspects remains at large at this time. 

On Dec 8th, the Coppell Police released a statement confirming that the home invasion robberies in the three cities were related based on the fact that the Coppell Police detectives were able to recover items stolen from the Coppell residence with the assistance of Allen and Carrollton Police. FMPD also released a statement revealing the identity of the woman involved. She is a 19-year-old African American woman, Johnisha Ann-Marie Williams. She has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is being held on $50,000 bond. Carrollton police have identified the two men as 34-year-old Juan Fernando Olaya and 19-year-old Rodney Ray Granger. Both men have been charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. All three men are African Americans.

We say ..

Our heart goes out to the Indian American families for the horror they suffered in their homes. The people of Flower Mound came together to 'turn this frightening situation into an opportunity for healing and unity', as expressed by Cami Nelson Niswonger, a resident of Flower Mound, who says, " I can't imagine being robbed by four masked individuals at gun point and can't begin to consider how this has impacted their well being. I would really like to rally around this family and let them know that they aren't alone." She is spear-heading collecting gift certificates and homemade holiday treats for the family and the police officers who risk their lives to keep the community safe. The suggestion received hundreds of comments of support from fellow residents on the Flower Mound facebook page.

On our part, we as a community must make sure that we do everything in our power to avoid being a victim of burglary or home invasion, as well as avoid putting our officers at any more risk than they already face. Do take the following basic precautions (the police have been giving lot of these tips to the Indian American communities that they have been addressing)-

1. Do not decorate the outside of your house with ANY ethnic decoration items- no door decorations, no Ganesha/ Laxmi at the entrance, no 'rangoli' at the entrance floor, etc. No point clue-ing in the burglars about your ethnic origin- not when they are so specifically targeting us. 

2. Be very vigilant. When driving out, keep an eye out for any vehicle that is parked close by with a person sitting in the vehicle. Inform the police if you do not recognize the person. Do not approach or talk to the person. We just need to be wisely smart, not foolishly brave.

3. Keep all precious items in the bank safe. Everyone in India does that. No, it's not our culture OR tradition to "hoard" gold in our homes.

4. Talk to your association and organize neighborhood watch program. If one is already in place, become actively involved in it. It helps to know others who are active. Besides, more active you are, more likely others are to watch out for your interests.

5. Do talk to your kids about what's going on and discuss a plan of action with them in case they are home alone and find themselves in such a situation (God forbid!). Tell them that it's important to always keep a cell phone handy. The best thing to do is to call 911 immediately. Other quick actions to take is to set off the alarm manually, press the car's panic button if the car key is nearby and the car is in the garage. Most importantly, never open the door without making sure you know the person outside.

6. Do have a security system installed in your house and do have it monitored as well. Set a duress code with your security company along with the regular code. Even while in the house, have the alarm on. Burglars have been known to abort their plans when the alarm goes off.

7. We would also say, when speaking to others, whether media or maids, do not give out unnecessary information and definitely do not generalize what you do. Like saying, 'Indian Americans keep jewelry in the house'. We most certainly DON'T. If YOU do, kindly DO NOT.

Bottom-line really is that if the burglars find nothing of value in our homes, the 'string of burglaries' and 'spat of home invasions' will stop. It is every individual's responsibility to make sure that happens, to not jeopardize the safety of our family, community members and the law enforcement officers.

What say you? 

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