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When going away on vacation, tourists get all sorts of advice on how to protect their belongings. Using a money belt to avoid pickpockets, having lockable zippers on luggage and bags, and only carrying around as much money as you’ll need for the day.

It’s pretty much the same advice anywhere you go. But there’s another side to the coin, crime tourism. Instead of tourists having to be on the lookout for pickpockets, it’s the visitors themselves who come to commit crimes.

Crime tourism is a new term for a practice that’s been around for years. In cities like Toronto, the problems continue to grow.

Although each offence is typically non-violent and involves the theft of small items, the scale is significant due to the high volume of activity. In April last year, 15 people were responsible for over 400 break-ins in the GTA.


Problems with crime tourism are surging in the USA, Europe, and Canada where small groups come into the country to commit crimes. Typically, these crimes are non-violent and involve breaking and entering (home burglary). They are mainly perpetrated by SATGs (South American Theft Groups).

Each burglary generally only involves the theft of small items worth a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The real earning power from this activity isn’t from the individual score, but the ease of repetition.

Groups can hit dozens, sometimes hundreds, of homes in a relatively short time frame. This allows them to potentially visit the country, commit multiple offences, and leave before detection. Once they’re out of the country, it’s unlikely they’ll be arrested and tried.

Break & Enter Crime Tourism

Break and enter, formerly referred to as burglary, is the act of breaking into a business or residence with the intention of stealing property. In the context of crime tourism, the stolen property are typically items that are easy to carry and/or resell like cash, jewelry, watches, and designer handbags.

Although the individual thefts may not amount to much, each one can have multiple charges. In addition to the break and enter offence, they may face charges for theft, possession of property obtained by crime, and mischief.

If someone is home at the time of the offence, they may also face home invasion charges, which has much more severe sentences. As a result, crime tourism groups typically take precautions to try and ensure no one is home.


Not all crime tourism involves SATGs (South American Theft Groups). Most groups, however, especially the well-organized ones, do seem to have a strong connection to South America – Chile in particular. Some of the burglary groups have been so prolific that they have even rented commercial storage space to stash the stolen goods.


While many countries are being targeted for crime tourism, Canadian cities are particularly vulnerable. The main reasons SATGs target Canada is because of the ease of entry and our light sentences for non-violent crimes. Toronto, and the GTA, are hit especially hard due to their sheer size.

Other major Canadian cities like Montreal and Edmonton have had a fair share of issues with crime tourism, but more is localized in the GTA. With more people and larger suburban areas, there is more opportunity for property-related offences in Toronto.


For home burglary, the typical crime tourism group operates with 3 to 4 people. The group usually consists of 1 door-knocker, 1 driver, and a 1 or 2 person entry team. In most groups, the door-knocker is female and the other members are male, although this is not always the case.

The process is simple:

  • First, the driver pulls up somewhere nearby and accessible, such as a neighbouring street that can be reached by the backyard or through an alleyway. This gives the team an easy way to escape while making it more difficult to identify the car and driver.
  • Next, the door-knocker approaches the home from the front door. They knock on the door and look for signs of home security systems. If someone answers the door, they’ll pretend to be doing something innocuous like taking a survey or doing routine inspections. Then the door-knocker calls off the burglary.
  • If no one is home and there is no obvious threat from a security system, the door-knocker calls in the entry team. The team goes around back to break into the home and steal any small valuable items. All the while, the door-knocker stands guard out front to alert the others if anyone is coming.
  • Once completed, they all flee to the getaway car and make their escape.

In large cities, like the GTA, the team can move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood to minimize the likelihood of getting caught. They can continue this tactic over and over again, until they are either caught or return to their home country.


If you, or a loved one, are facing charges for a property-related offence, like break and enter, your best option is a criminal defence lawyer. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal lawyer who will help you understand your charges, your options, and the possible outcomes.

Contact William Jaksa today for your consultation.

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