Indian Americans, who are "known for owning high-quality gold of 20 and 22 karats", have become targets in a number of thefts in northern California.
"There has been "a rash of robberies throughout Silicon Valley's Indian-American communities in recent months," the New York Times reported citing its partner newspaper the Bay Citizen.
Indian Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations in the Bay Area, and their numbers have nearly doubled to 111,000 in Santa Clara County alone in the past decade.
The exact number of gold thefts is difficult to determine because the crimes have happened in several jurisdictions and victims' ethnicity is not always made public, the paper said.
But interviews with the police, government and civic leaders, and representatives of the region's Indian-American community confirmed the trend and growing alarm, it said.
"It increased significantly nine months ago," Anu Natarajian, a Fremont city councilwoman was quoted as saying. "It's not a random thing that's happening. People are afraid. People are nervous about it."
Indian-Americans were known for owning high-quality gold of 20 and 22 karats. With the price of gold surging since the recession began ($1,614 per ounce on Thursday), that makes them lucrative targets, Sergeant Jeff Swadener of the Fremont Police Department was quoted as saying.
Most of the thefts have happened while residents were not home, and had inadvertently advertised the fact through another tradition: they leave their shoes outside the home on stoops or in racks.
"No shoes, no one home," Sergeant Swadener said.
Robberies of gold jewellery have been reported throughout the Bay Area in recent months, including at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations, and a gold dealer in Hayward was shot to death at his home Sep 18, the Times said.