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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Appliance thefts wane

Thursday, May 8, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A recent increase in appliance thefts in the county seems to be on the wane, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.

According to previous Bulletin reports, the sheriff’s office saw a string of appliance thefts in March, mostly at vacant or for-sale houses. Items stolen included stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers and even an HVAC (central air) unit.

The thefts generally happened in the daytime, Maj. Ricky Walker said in the earlier report, and the sheriff’s office sought the public’s help in keeping an eye out for suspicious people loading appliances into vehicles at vacant houses.

Perry said that although no arrests have been made to his knowledge, the thefts have dropped off considerably.

“We’ve had one recent incident,” Perry said. “We had several cases happen, then it just dropped off. I don’t know if the media attention helped stop this. When people became aware and were looking out more, that created a pressure.”

At one point, Perry said, investigators suspected that thieves were using online real estate resources to scope out the appliances in for-sale houses.

However, Perry said, “We’re not completely sure that was the only factor involved in this.”

Sheriff’s office patrol shifts have been advised to be on the lookout for moving trucks out late at night and people wearing appliance retailer uniforms after hours, the sheriff said.

Perry suspects the stolen appliances were re-sold and not scrapped, because reselling the items would draw less suspicion and potentially result in a higher payout.

“If you do the work to tear the copper out of an appliance, there’s not much money there,” Perry said. “Most of the scrap metal dealers, if you’re bringing in whole appliances, you’re still not getting that much money. If you bring in eight refrigerators in two weeks, they know to (contact) us.”

Perry said a February 2013 bill designed to limit metal thefts by placing new regulations on scrap metal purchasers has helped cut reduce metal thefts in the area.

According to previous Bulletin reports, the bill requires scrap metal dealers to keep detailed photographic records of “proprietary” items sold to them, such as high-gauge copper wire, and store those records for 30 days.

“Most of the scrap metal dealers did want to help with the problem, but it brought everyone into a reporting age,” Perry said. “Then they really understood how serious the problem was and how badly we wanted to (help the) victims.”

Although appliance thefts are down, area residents are encouraged to keep a lookout for suspicious activity at vacant or for-sale homes.

Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 63-CRIME (632-7463), or in Patrick County, 694-3161.

Rewards of up to $1,000 are available through Crime Stoppers for information related to unsolved crimes. The amount of any reward is determined by the nature of the crime and the substance of information provided.


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