Thefts from vacant homes a "concern" for CMPD - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Thefts from vacant homes a "concern" for CMPD

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

If you have a rental house that is currently unoccupied or a house for sale - keep an eye on your property. Police say thieves are targeting vacant homes.

"They're crawling in - in crawl spaces and taking copper from houses, the water pipes, the electric wiring that might be in the house. Literally they're taking out the kitchen sinks also. Refrigerators. Stoves" said Lt. Norman Garnes of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Metro Division.

Several Charlotte communities are dealing with thefts from vacant homes.

But Lt Garnes, who oversees Response Area 1 in the Metro Division, said his area has assigned officers to 'directed patrols' at various times of the day and night. Officers on bicycles are also saturating hard hit neighborhoods.

"Many of the property owners don't realize their houses were burglarized until two to three months after the fact because owners don't check their properties every week or every month" said Lt. Garnes. "So if something may have happened in October of last year, we may get the report now."

Lt. Garnes said his response area is averaging 2-to-3 vacant house burglaries a week - which he called "a lot."

According to recent CMPD statistics, during the first quarter of 2014 - Metro Division Response Area 1 had 27 residential breaking and entering cases. Of that number, 11 were vacant homes "suspects took copper, appliances, and/or other metal."

During the last quarter of 2013, this response area had 39 residential burglaries and 17 were vacant homes.

Lt. Garnes said neighbors can help tackle the problem.

"Call in any suspicious person that you see, any suspicious vehicles so we can send an officer out."

The president of the Lockwood Community Association said his neighbors are seeing "a lot of the transient population coming through" pushing carts.

Christopher Dennis said "there are a lot of scrap yard not far from the neighborhood so it becomes easy access for them to come in and take copper out of a home and take it a scrap yard for change."

Dennis said neighbors have been working to revitalize the community.

"It's a great community" Dennis said. But it has it has its share of vacant homes. "We do have a lot of vacant homes and some of these vacant homes have been vandalized and broken into."

Dennis said part of the problem is absentee landlords, who need to step up.

He said "if you're looking at investing in communities, get engaged and involved."

The thefts are costing property owners thousands of dollars.

One rental company hired Melvin Richardson to fix a plumbing leak "which turned out to be all the pipings are missing so now it turns into a bigger job than it originally started."

Richardson, a sub contractor, said when he went to tackle the leak " I opened up the wall and noticed that the only thing that was standing inside was the copper stand pipe that goes to the kitchen sink and it came up in my hand and it was cut with a lock cutter on the end of the pipe."

Richardson said he decided to look under the house to see the rest of the piping.

That's when he noticed the piping was gone and also the copper from the air conditioning unit. Thieves also took the copper wiring  from the electric box.

"No telling what that's gonna cost to replace some of that" Richardson said.

According to Richardson the house " hasn't been vacant that long - not long. So it didn't take no time for them to realize no one was in - to come and get what they wanted."

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