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Nassau cops probe distraction burglary's possible link to similar crimes

Police are investigating whether a distraction burglary in Valley Stream earlier this week is related to three other similar crimes committed in Nassau County last month.

On Monday evening, a man posing as an employee from the water department entered the home of a couple, both 81, on North Cottage Street and distracted them while an accomplice stole money from another part of the house, Nassau County police said.

Three similar incidents occurred in Syosset, New Hyde Park and Westbury on June 19 and June 20. In each case, someone who identified himself as a National Grid worker entered the homes, claiming to be looking for a gas leak. The suspect then disappeared into another room before leaving with stolen property -- or had an accomplice do so, police said.

The victims range in age from 66 to 85, and police believe seniors are being targeted.

"The precinct squads are coordinating to see if there's some type of pattern" between the four incidents, said police Insp. Kenneth Lack, of the department's public information office. He said the same burglars could be committing the crimes. Police are seeking the public's help in identifying and stopping them.

"If you see a utility truck or a contracting vehicle with one of your elderly neighbors, be a good neighbor," Lack said. "Go up and say, 'Hey, did you expect someone today?' "

Lack also urged anyone who receives an unexpected visit from a contractor or utility worker to request identification.

If something seems suspicious, Lack encouraged the public to take videos, snap photographs, or write down the utility vehicles' license plate numbers -- and to call the police.

"Please don't let them in the house," Lack said. "Talk to them through the closed door, talk to them through an open window."

A neighbor of the Valley Stream victims is taking the message to heart.

Linda Dattolo, 46, said she'll check on her elderly neighbors the next time she sees a utility truck. "I would be the first to ask," she said. "You want to make sure everything is secure."

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