Residents of Detroit are getting a big scare out of the latest trend in crime, appliance theft. What’s so scary about that? It’s not the actual theft of the appliance itself, it’s what happens after the appliance has been removed.
Thieves are breaking into houses with bright, shiny, brand new appliances and stealing them. Big deal, you may say. Well, when these appliances such as water heaters, dryers, and stoves are powered by natural gas, it becomes a huge deal. Usually the thieves are in such a rush to exit the premises, they neglect to do something about the gas pipe, hooked up to nothing, filling the house with dangerous natural gas. If it is left undiscovered, the house lights up like the Fourth of July.
To stop this dangerous activity in its tracks, the Detroit police and DTE Energy are teaming up and luring criminals to homes equipped with surveillance cameras. They choose a few homes in specific areas, sit back, and wait for a crook to bite. When the thief steals the brand new appliances, the GPS tracking device authorities placed inside the appliances leads to an arrest.
Robert Hubert was captured in this way, with police watching him as he entered the building right there on their computer. They watched him as he disconnected and loaded up a gas stove, and then watched him come back and enter the basement to steal the water heater. When he had left, the GPS devices allowed authorities to follow him directly to his home, search warrant in hand, to recover the stolen appliances and arrest Hubert.
In an interview with a reporter, Hubert admits to have broken into about 50 homes to commit crimes just like this one, but claims he faithfully caps the pipe to stop the flow of gas into the home to avoid an explosion.
Detective Derrick Hassan explains the next step to stopping this crime in its tracks: “We plan to go after those used appliance dealers who are paying good money for this stolen stuff next, because they are fueling this crime.”
After two months of using the GPS devices 10 people have been arrested, but authorities are asking for the public’s help. If you see what appears to be someone breaking and entering a home or smell the odor of natural gas, call 1-800-477-4747 to report the leak 24 hours a day. Help Detroit put an end to this dangerous crime.