CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are warning residents in east Charlotte's Plaza Midwood neighborhood: thieves are cutting power to get easy entry into your home.
At least two victims of break-ins this month said someone broke into their circuit boxes and shut off the main breakers before breaking in.
In one case, a back-up battery on the alarm system ensured the alarm still went off when thieves broke a window. Nothing was taken, said the homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous.
In the other case, the couple was out of town with their 3-year-old daughter when someone broke the lock off their circuit box and shut down the main breaker before kicking in the front door.
"What the person is doing," said Anthony Almonte, one of the victims, "is going by, cutting the power, and either coming back later in the evening and if there's no one complaining or no alarms ... coming in and taking what they have access to."
The burglars stole a scooter, a flat-screen TV, and his daughter's Christmas and birthday presents.
"We were looking forward to coming back and celebrating her birthday today and got that call yesterday, which was not great," said Andrea Acosta, who owns the home.
Almonte believes the older homes in Plaza Midwood are more at risk for this type of break-in, because most of the circuit boxes are on the outside walls instead of inside.
"They just opened up the box here and cut this down here.. the loop that secured it," said Acosta, showing the broken bracket and intact lock. "It shut off all the electricity -- including the alarm system obviously -- the refrigeration, everything."
Acosta had considered moving the box inside when she bought the home.
"It's just so expensive to move it inside, we weren't sure it was really worth it," she said. Now she is reconsidering that, and thinking about stepping up her alarm system too.
"It was a little bit of a wake-up call," she agreed.
The good news is, at least Christmas was saved for their little girl. Almonte bought and wrapped duplicates of most of the gifts -- mostly educational toys.
"When my daughter gets back .. she'll still have the gifts that were taken," he said. "It gives us enough time to recover and enjoy Christmas."