- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

A rash of break-ins and thefts on Capitol Hill in the past month has put residents on edge, and police think one man is behind most of the crimes.

Metropolitan Police recorded 36 residential burglaries since mid-December in the usually tranquil neighborhoods east of the Capitol.

“Usually we have no issues up there,” 1st District Cmdr. Diane Groomes said.

The burglaries have been concentrated within Police Service Areas (PSA) 102, 105 and 106. The area stretches from about Florida Avenue Northeast to the north to the Anacostia River to the south, west to South Capitol Street and east to 13th Street.

Cmdr. Groomes said she is particularly surprised by the incidents in PSA 105, which she called “the quietest PSA in the world.”

She said investigators see a pattern in the break-ins, suggesting that one man is responsible for most of the crimes.

“It looks like [he’s] prying open the lock, drilling out the lock and coming in,” she said. “We’ve had sightings of this guy.” Witnesses say the man is black and about 30 to 40 years old. Descriptions of his height and weight have varied.

Cmdr. Groomes said the man often steals whatever valuables he can find, whether it be a laptop computer or cash.

His presence in the neighborhood has been particularly unnerving to residents who have found him in their homes.

A woman who was house- sitting for her friend on 10th Street Southeast a couple weeks ago had gone upstairs after walking her dogs. When she returned downstairs, she found a man inside, said Daniel Ostergaard, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the area.

“He scared her,” Mr. Ostergaard said. “She started screaming, he grabbed something and then left.”

Recently, he has gotten more brazen.

“Last Friday, we had two homes in broad daylight burglarized,” Cmdr. Groomes said. “One guy was at home sleeping, and this guy comes in and says, ‘I’m with the Salvation Army’ and leaves.”

Most of the burglaries occur between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., authorities said.

Residents have been plagued not just by burglaries. Neil Glick, another advisory neighborhood commissioner, said thieves are taking packages and other items off porches.

“They steal anything that’s not hammered down,” he said.

Mr. Glick said he has been victimized twice, in December and in January, when he found an empty box on his front porch. The fruits and vegetables his family had sent him in the box were nowhere to be found.

Mr. Glick said the perpetrators — who he thinks are a man and a woman — may be following delivery trucks.

He said it’s an annoyance that has persisted for a few months now.

“We need to crack down on crime here on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Cmdr. Groomes said more officers are patrolling the area and going door-to-door to meet with residents.

Despite the recent burglaries, the 1st District as a whole has shown a 26 percent drop in overall burglaries since the first of the year, compared with the same period last year, according to preliminary Metropolitan Police Department statistics.

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