Refrigerators, washing machines, dryers: Appliance theft on the rise in Charlotte

As the city continues to grow, construction sites are prime targets for thieves.
Thieves use stolen box trucks to move stolen appliances.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 5:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Refrigerators, washing machines and dryers.

They’re just a few vital appliances that police say are being stolen from homes and sold on the black market.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), appliance theft has become a costly trend as more and more people continue to move to the city.

As evidenced by construction sites, new businesses and homes, Charlotte is growing before our eyes.

But police say there is a “hidden cost” that comes with that construction.

“When you go to buy a property or go to rent a property, frequently, they come with appliances,” CMPD Major Brian Foley said. “Appliances are expensive, and believe me, thieves know this.”

He said thieves may use stolen box trucks to move stolen appliances.

“When those trucks are rolling at three o’clock in the morning, there’s a reason,” Foley said. “People aren’t moving from their homes at 3 a.m.”

Foley said police worked with property managers and developers, utilizing GPS technology, to track stolen appliances to storage facilities in the North Division of the city.

Detectives found a storage warehouse that had 18 stoves that were stolen from an apartment complex in the University City area of Charlotte.

“When I say 18, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Foley said. “That’s a general number of how many we see stolen in each of these kinds of thefts so, do the math. If you think a washer-dryer combo is 1,500 bucks, times 15, you start to see how this flow happens and why it’s so lucrative to the bad guys.”

Foley also mentioned that there is an extensive black market for reselling these items.

If you come across appliances online at a substantial discount, be warned. You could be dealing with stolen items.

“The consumer in this situation just can’t get so wrapped up in price and go, ‘wow what a great deal, and it’s brand new,’” Better Business Bureau’s Tom Bartholomy said. “There’s some downsides in buying stolen merchandise as in having it taken away from you when it’s finally found out how it got into your possession.”

Bartholomy said they’re getting reports from homebuilders of appliance thefts.

In August, Gastonia Police said they were investigating a series of copper thefts from new home construction sites.

They have since said that someone has been arrested and charged in that case.

“It affects everybody, because what eventually happens is it drives the cost of the rent up, it drives the cost of the appliances up, so those costs, you’re gonna feel it whether you like it or not,” Foley said.

Police encourage you to have an alarm, cameras that record video and outdoor lighting after hours.

If you see something that looks unusual like a box truck roaming around a newly constructed neighborhood at 3 a.m., call police.

CMPD said it will be reaching out to developers to talk about how they can work together to protect against theft.

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