A rash of burglaries in Spring Valley, including Foxhall Road, prompted a June 5 Community Crime Meeting that brought concerned homeowners together with D.C. Council member Mary Cheh and Metropolitan Police Department officers.
Victims started reporting the break-ins about a year ago on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social network community. Since then, the organized break-ins of homes and especially automobiles have escalated.
Though each of the incidents is different, many involve victims waking up in the morning to find visible signs of a break-in, including broken car windows or items from the car strewn onto the street and sidewalk. Other self-reported incidents suggest that the perpetrators are using a keypad or a garage opener from a robbed car to attempt to enter the garage of a home.
Further research indicates that criminals may be using devices to remotely open a car or a garage by connecting with the valet key or a garage door opener. While there is no explicit confirmation that the perpetrators are using such devices, the devices are available to the public and some break-ins have no indication of forced entry.
Chief of Police Peter Newsham commented that many of the perpetrators of these crimes seem to be repeat offenders in their late teens and early 20s. He said that most perpetrators are professionals who are well known to the police. These professionals use Military Road as their access point, but unfortunately, he explained, catching them is not as easy as knowing this information.
Due to D.C.’s ban on “hot pursuits” by police in a vehicle, MPD must catch perpetrators in the act of stealing cars. Newsham further detailed the difficult process of arresting perpetrators well known to the police, as many are not incarcerated for any length of time by the court system.
During the Community Crime Meeting, the officer in charge of Police Service Area 205 was notified that a person responsible for 11 thefts in the area had been arrested, but would likely be back on the street in 24 hours.
Due to combination of difficulties the police face in incarcerating the perpetrators, the Community Crime Meeting concluded with a series of recommendations to protect homes and cars. The suggestions included:
- Locking your house at all times, including the door to the garage and the access gate to the backyard.
- Locking your cars at all times, including during quick trips in and out of your house.
- Locking the garage door if you are to be away for a long period of time.
- Removing valet keys from vehicles and keeping them in your house, possibly
in a metal box to prevent remote activation.
According to PSA statistics, there has only been a six-percent increase in auto theft. However, certain areas, such as Spring Valley and Friendship Heights, have been targeted more than others. In Spring Valley, for example, theft from automobiles is up as much as 72 percent from last year. Statistics also show that high-end vehicles, particularly Audis, are the preferred targets.