Some Columbia criminals are adopting a new tactic to break into homes: dressing as cops.

In two separate east Columbia incidents in the last three weeks, intruders declared themselves as local law enforcement officers during a home invasion, Columbia Police Department spokesman Jeff Pitts said in a press conference Friday.

During the first home invasion, which occurred at 3:15 a.m. March 21, three armed men wearing white hoodies broke into a Spiros Drive home and insisted they were deputies from the Boone County Sheriff Department.

The suspects fled the scene prior to making contact with the residents, and the residents reported that nothing was stolen, Pitts said. The case remains an open investigation, and no suspects have been taken into custody.

A similar incident took place early Friday morning when one intruder posed as a Columbia police officer after breaking into the home. The intruder took an undisclosed amount of cash, Pitts said. No arrests have been made, Columbia interim Police Chief Geoff Jones said. It is still unknown if the incidents are related, he said.

“The reason we’re here is we have a deep concern that people are posing as police officers and sheriff’s deputies and forcing their way into homes in our community,” Jones said. “I just want people to be aware of what we look like and understand that we will make you aware that we are the police. We discourage officers from taking enforcement action in plain clothes, and almost always, if an officer is going to … take some action as a result of something that is not life-threatening, they will be in a uniform.”

Joining Jones at the press conference were 10 law enforcement officers from the Columbia Police Department, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the University of Missouri Police Department, who each wore a distinct uniform used by the departments in the field.

“This is what you would see if the police came to your house… The people in the photographs (taken from the first incident) do not look like us.”

The police department will work with the sheriff’s department on the cases.

Jones asked residents of Spiros Drive, Lillia​​n Lane and Holly Avenue contact the police with any information or video surveillance footage from the nights of the incidents.

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By Jeremy Turley ​|​ Columbia Daily Tribune