Vacant homes target of burglaries

Posted at: 09/18/2013 10:49 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Vacant homes listed for sale in Albuquerque are being targeted by thieves, and APD is investigating what realtors are calling a bizarre rash of thefts.

On Wednesday a pair of realtors is fighting back.

Both real estate agents KOB Eyewitness News 4 spoke to have had their vacant listings broken into and robbed.

The biggest surprise for realtors is that thieves are getting past heavily armored electronic lockboxes. Nearly all metro area realtors use the high-tech boxes; they are like a mini-safe with the house key inside.  

What thieves are taking from these homes is the other shocker:

"I was meeting a client at a house they were in the process of purchasing," said realtor David Sokolowski. "Someone had broken into the thing, into the house, that morning and stolen all the appliances."

Stove, fridge, washing machine; Sokolowski says the appliances in that house were gone.

He started talking to colleagues like Judy Pierson. All of a sudden, he wasn't alone.

"It makes you very nervous," said Pierson.

One of Pierson's vacant listings near UNM fell victim to the appliance snatchers, too.

"They look in all the windows to see if the house is vacant," she said.

Pierson thinks thieves are finding the empty houses online, or by driving through the neighborhood, then cutting off electronic lockboxes and somehow getting to the key inside without a code.

"We have no idea how they get that out, but they get it open," she said.

APD confirms a string of appliance burglaries from vacant homes for sale.

Sometimes neighbors have even seen thieves carrying appliances outside, assuming they're just movers.

"Seems like it's a rash," said Pierson, who's talked to several colleagues who've had the same type of break-in happen at their listings.

As police investigate, Sokolowski and Pierson are appealing to sellers and neighbors to work together.

"One of the best things they could do is contact all their neighbors and let them know that they're not going to be in the house," said Sokolowski.

APD says the most useful information a neighbor can give them if someone sees this happening is a vehicle description.

Police say thieves have been stealing copper wire out of vacant homes for years, but with new regulations on reselling that wire, appliances may be the new target.    

They also say there's no indication this is an inside job or of a realtor gone bad.