Those strangers might want more than your chickens: Police

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Julianne Peters has always been a trusting person. After all, she grew up in a home where her parents never locked their doors. 

So, when someone in a white BMW SUV pulled up in front of her Windsor Township home a few weeks ago and honked their horn, she didn’t give it a second thought. 

“I always come from a place of help,” Peters said. “I honestly thought someone was lost. I thought someone was confused. I will never sit there and think the worst possible outcome.” 

Lance and Julianne Peters holding Elliot, a 2-year-old female Bronze turkey, and Rona, a 3-year-old Rhode Island Red chicken, respectively, in the chicken coop behind their home in Windsor Township, Monday, April 24, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The people in the SUV said they wanted to buy some of the chickens they saw in Peters' yard.

Police, however, believe they wanted more than fresh eggs.

Several York County residents shared similar stories of encountering people pulling up to their house wanting to purchase their poultry. Investigators believe the chicken story is a ruse, concocted by a ring of thieves, designed to distract homeowners — possibly so accomplices can break into the home and search for valuables.

Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

While Peters was willing to hear what they wanted, her husband, Lance, said he was a little more skeptical. Honking horns are a common occurrence because they live near Route 74, he said, but when it persisted, the couple walked around the house and saw a car parked at the end of their drive.

“Which is odd because if you needed something, why wouldn’t you pull in?” Lance said. “That started raising flags for me immediately.” 

A rooster in the chicken coop behind the home of Lance and Julianne Peters in Windsor Township, Monday, April 24, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Something else threw up a red flag.

In the eight years since the couple started raising chickens, no one had ever before inquired about purchasing one.

“It was definitely a first for us,” Lance said. “We never even had anyone stop. We do it for ourselves and sell some of the eggs to people at work.” 

More:Central York tried to intimidate book ban protesters, students say. They won't back down.

More:York City man's remains found in burned-out vehicle in Virginia

More:York County celebrates Prom 2023

The encounter led the couple to contact Northern York County Regional Police about the incident and post surveillance video from their home to make others aware.

They soon learned that many others have had similar encounters.

North Hopewell Township Police Chief Timothy Quinan said at least four residents in his jurisdiction reported encounters with people in a white SUV wanting to buy chickens. One Winterstown resident told Quinan that people in a white SUV drove up on April 14, the same day the Peterses had their encounter with the would-be poultry purchasers. 

“This is kind of new to our area, regarding the chickens. We are conducting an investigation, of course,” Quinan said. “We put a post out on Facebook, and we had several responses back from other residents in the area who advised they had a similar incident involving them as well. It was a white SUV. One reported that the white SUV had damage to it. The other one said it was a white SUV brand new like it had come off the showroom floor. Both of which had four subjects in the vehicle.” 

The York Dispatch has not been able to identify any reported theft cases involving such a ruse.

Residents told Quinan there were two men and two women in the vehicle. Quinan was told by residents that they were offered anywhere between $25 and $60 for their chickens.

“The price he offered us was way high,” Lance Peters said. “And we’re like: 'No.' Our chickens are like pets, and we have them for the eggs and whatnot. He kept trying to offer more money and trying to buy them. Everything in my gut was telling me something’s not right here.” 

Chickens eat popcorn in their chicken coop behind the home of Lance and Julianne Peters in Windsor Township, Monday, April 24, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Peterses eventually got the men to leave. The odd encounter made the couple review video from the security cameras at their home. 

“We looked at our security cameras and realized they went by the house, turned around, parked at the end of the driveway and started honking immediately,” Lance said. 

Quinan said he had never heard of the tactic before a couple of weeks ago. 

While “I don’t know what their MO is, I do believe it is some sort of diversionary tactic to get the people out of the house so that they can go in and do their thing,” Quinan said. “It’s just awfully odd. Why else would they be blaring the horn to get the people to come out of their house.” 

The Peterses agreed. 

MORE:York County Prison inmates take civil rights case appeal to district court

MORE:Frosty Wednesday morning possible in York County

MORE:York City mayor: Contracts with controller's nonprofit won't advance in current form

“We had never heard of this tactic regarding the chickens, but apparently, it’s been going on for two years now, but nobody ever spoke up,” Lance Peters said. “Initially, we didn’t know what they were after. We knew it wasn’t our chickens.” 

After the incident, the couple put surveillance video from their security cameras on Facebook. 

“Before you know it, we had countless people contacting us saying it was the same car, same people,” Lance Peters said. 

The couple said that the chickens are clearly visible from the road. That made them a target of the would-be thieves. 

“Apparently what they were doing is they are targeting people with chickens as a diversion tactic,” Lance said. “They try to lure you out your front door, and you’re not going to lock your front door behind you. Then they offer you a large amount of money.” 

Once they have your attention diverted, the other people in the car with them go in your front door while you are out back, Lance Peters said. 

Julianne Peters, left, offers popcorn to a chicken while  Elliot, a 2-year-old female Bronze turkey, stands close by at her home in Windsor Township, Monday, April 24, 2023. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“By the time you come back out front, they are already back in the car and gone and you don’t even realize you are robbed until later that night,” he said. 

Lance Peters advised anyone who has had a similar encounter to report it to the police. 

Julianne Peters said that if her husband had not been there, she probably would have fallen for the scheme. She’s now leery of strangers coming to their house. 

“I’ve been told all the time that I am too trusting of people,” she said. “After that incident, there’s a different vibe, and a different feeling. I can’t stop saying that. My children were in the home. And I can’t stop thinking about the fact: What if I let them in?”