Packed suitcases sat on the enclosed porch of a two-story, white-painted brick home in the affluent Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest Washington, the scene of a brazen burglary attempt early last week by D.C. youths.
Claire Heintzman, a social worker from Vancouver, British Columbia, and her mother were preparing to catch a flight back to Canada on Wednesday after visiting her sister and brother-in-law who live in a house in the 3800 block of 47th Street. She said they were asleep in the early morning hours Monday when the home was burglarized.
A police report said Andre Dicks, 19; Rico Carr, 21; Antoine Carter, 17; and Andre Reid, 20, entered through an unlocked back door and took cell phones, wallets and computer and stereo equipment.
Answering a call reporting the suspicious activity, a dozen Metropolitan Police Department cars soon were on the scene as officers spotted the youths, some of whom wore ski masks and tried to run and hide in the bushes. Eventually, police arrested the four youths and recovered the familys property. A police report mentions an unidentified fifth accomplice, whose status is unclear from the report.
Ms. Heintzman declined to comment on the details of the burglary, aside from complimenting the way law enforcement reacted to it.
"I can say we are extremely pleased with the police service," she said.
After their arrests, sources within the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services confirmed for The Washington Times that Dicks is a DYRS ward of the city and that Carr was awaiting commitment. Court records show Reid has prior arrests for unauthorized use of a vehicle and assault, and previously was convicted of receiving stolen property and gun possession.
The thwarted burglary attempt stands out for adding to the emerging trend of youths under the supervision of DYRS traveling from crime-ridden parts of the inner city to commit robberies and burglaries in suburban and affluent parts of the city and surrounding counties - sometimes with deadly consequences.
In October, Deandrew Hamlin, 18 and a DYRS ward, was arrested in the District and charged with driving a Jeep stolen from Sue Ann Marcum, an American University professor found dead in her Bethesda, Md., home in what police say began as a burglary attempt. So far no murder charges have been filed.
In April, three DYRS wards were charged with killing popular D.C. school Principal Brian Betts, 42. He was found April 15 fatally shot in an upstairs bedroom of his Silver Spring, Md., home. His credit cards were taken and used fraudulently. His sport utility vehicle was stolen and located days later about 14 miles away in the District.
While no one was hurt in last week's burglary attempt, an examination of the criminal records of the youths involved showed, in some cases, escalating patterns of violence among them and the people they associate with.
In 2008, Carr and three other youths were arrested and charged with unlawful entry and attempted theft after they were caught breaking into a house on the unit block of Q Street in Northwest, the same block where Carr lives. He pleaded guilty and received a 90-day suspended jail sentence and 180 days probation, which the court later revoked and ordered him to serve 90 days in jail under the Youth Act.
Two men identified in court papers as his accomplices in the 2008 theft were Jamal Wilson and Jeremy Risper, both of whom were minors at the time.
Just last month, 19-year-old Wilson was fatally shot through the heart. Risper, also 19 at the time, was charged in the homicide. Wilson, Risper and another man charged in Wilson's killing, Kwan Kearney - a 19-year-old who police say also killed a high school student days before Wilson was fatally shot - were all wards of the city.
In May, Carr also was arrested for unauthorized use of a vehicle and receiving stolen property after he and a group of boys were found riding in a 2007 Mercedes Benz in Northeast Washington that had been reported stolen. He pleaded guilty in July to the vehicle charge. A presentence report advised the court that he was "an impressionable young man who used his idle time negatively," though it was noted that he showed "a lack of maturity and impaired judgment."
The court suspended a six-month jail sentence and a three-year supervised release and ordered supervised probation for two years. Sources at DYRS say that despite his age, he appeared in the departments database as being in the "precommitment" phase, which could mean that Court Social Services had informed DYRS they could no longer adequately supervise his probation, but that he should be committed as a juvenile offender.
A police affidavit on file in D.C. Superior Court said that at the time of his arrest this week, Carr was wanted as a fugitive in Montgomery County on a Dec. 10 burglary charge. He waived extradition and was waiting to be picked up by authorities there, the affidavit said. A Montgomery County police spokesman was unable to find any details on the case or the warrant.
Dicks, purportedly Carrs accomplice in the Spring Valley burglary, was arrested and charged with assault in March after he had an argument with the mother of his child over her complaints that he was not more responsible and supporting, according to a police report.
The report states that Dicks grabbed the woman by the neck and punched her eight or nine times in the face and body, leaving her with blurred vision, a swollen black eye, head pain and dizziness. Prosecutors later dropped the case for "want of evidence."
The burglary last week that resulted in the youths' arrest was among a rash of burglaries that have occurred in upper Northwest in recent weeks.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier addressed the subject in a post to a neighborhood listserv on Dec. 15. She said that in the previous 30 days, there had been 25 burglaries in Ward 3.
"Eight of the burglaries involved homes that were occupied at the time of the break-in," she said.
Metropolitan Police Lt. Alan Hill posted a message on the listserv saying police had not "debriefed enough suspects yet to know how or why they are picking their targets."
Chief Lanier said that, among other things, police had deployed a rapid-response unit to patrol neighborhoods and respond with lights and sirens to calls for burglar alarms and suspicious people.
In response to reports on the listserv of the latest burglary, one resident expressed the anxiety of the community: "This is brazen, nothing-to-lose confrontational theft and burglary, which means we should fear not only for our possessions, but moreover for our well-being."
Though Ms. Heintzman did not care to share her social workers expertise about the boys who were arrested in connection with the burglary of her brother-in-laws home, her mother, Marie Heintzman, spoke briefly about it before heading to the airport, and back to Vancouver.
"My daughter is a social worker, and she tells me they have an expression for these types of kids," she said. "Youth aging out of care."
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