Take your keys, hide your wallets: Car break-ins increase in DC

Male thief tries to steal a car. Car theft concept(Getty Images/iStockphoto/PraewBlackWhile)

LAUREL, Md. — Thieves are snatching valuables from autos and it appears there has been a spike in the number of such property crimes throughout D.C.

According to D.C. police statistics, so far this year there has been about a 21 percent jump in citywide thefts from automobiles compared to the same time frame last year.

The Washington Post reported a spike in these crimes in wealthier areas of the District.

In police District 2, which includes part of downtown and the northwest neighborhoods of Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Foggy Bottom and Spring Valley, there have been more than than 400 thefts from cars so far this year compared to 214 last year.

So far in 2019 in police District 1, which also includes a swath of downtown, there has also been an increase in such thefts this year — more than 230 compared to the same time frame in 2018, when there were fewer than 170.

Katie Howard, who is a former WTOP employee, said her husband, Steve, and their two daughters were inside the Safeway grocery store near Chevy Chase Circle, which is near the line that divides the district from Maryland. When they returned to their minivan last Tuesday night, the window was broken and their backpacks had been snatched from the back seat.

“There were other cars, too. There were about four other cars that were also victims of the smash and grab. It was 6 o’clock on a crowded night at the grocery store, and a full parking lot, too,” Howard said.

“Our car was locked … our windows were even tinted, I don’t even know how they saw in the window. But apparently they saw something, and as soon as my husband and children went in the store, they smashed the window in, took what they wanted, ran off and then my husband and children returned and were quite surprised and scared at the scene.”

Howard’s daughters are 8 and 11-years-old.

“You know, as a parent, they need to learn these things. You’ve warned them about looking out around your surroundings, but it’s always a hard lesson learned and it’s unfortunate, and I wish we didn’t have to learn it this young,” Howard said.

There are ways to try and, hopefully, prevent opportunistic thieves from zeroing in on and stealing belongings, though. Prevention tips posted on the MPD website include hiding valuables such as smartphones, tablets, suitcases and shopping bags out of sight, and keeping car doors locked and windows closed — even if stepping away from your vehicle for a few minutes.

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