- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Call it a “surge” of sorts.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier says her department has flooded Upper Northwest neighborhoods with officers in response to a string of burglaries that has alarmed residents in recent weeks.

Preliminary Metropolitan Police statistics say burglaries have soared in the last 30 days when compared with the same period last year. The statistics say that from Dec. 3 through Sunday there were 29 burglaries in Ward 3, compared with 13 during the same 30-day period last year.

Citywide, burglaries are also up in the last 30 days, from 272 last year to 384 this year.

Chief Lanier said the jump is “not unusual.” She said burglaries typically increase during the holiday season — and this year was no different. But the recent spike in the neighborhood comes after increases, albeit temporary, in other areas of the city at other times this year.

The chief said that, among other things, police deployed a rapid-response unit to patrol neighborhoods in Upper Northwest and have used lights and sirens while responding to burglar alarms and calls about suspicious people.

She said results include a recent 30-day period during which police made 76 burglary arrests and closed more than 80 cases, with additional cases likely to be tied to the suspects in custody.

“The thing that has helped us close a lot of these burglaries is citizens calling in suspicious activity,” she said, adding that an increased police presence and neighborhood vigilance helps displace burglars. “Property crimes like burglary and theft-from-auto, the criminals tend to case the area. That’s why calling in suspicious activity is so important.”

She predicted the uptick will be temporary. And, of course, she reminded people to lock their doors.

Cpl. Daniel Friz, a Montgomery County police spokesman, said they haven’t recorded the same type of dramatic jump in the number of burglaries.

He said community services officers post crime information on neighborhood listservs to keep residents aware and dispel rumors. Upon request, officers will perform “residential security surveys” in which they walk through a residence with the occupant and discuss things like whether the lighting is adequate to discourage an intruder and whether the doors and windows are secure.

Cpl. Friz said burglaries seem to be getting more public attention since the death of American University professor Sue Ann Marcum.

Ms. Marcum was found dead in her Bethesda home In October. Deandrew Hamlin, 18 and a DYRS ward, was arrested in the District and charged with driving a Jeep stolen from Ms. Marcum a day earlier.

“That was a burglary gone bad. Very bad. So that has had people concerned,” Cpl. Friz said.

Local listservs have been abuzz with reports of burglars who target back doors, entering through ones that are unlocked and sometimes kicking in doors that are bolted.

Jon Bender, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Upper Northwest, said residents are anxious about the recent spate of property crimes. He described one case recently discussed on MPD’s Second District listserv during which the intruder was confronted by a resident. The intruder locked the resident in a closet and cut the home’s phone lines. While no one was hurt in that incident, he said, “There’s always the possibility that if a burglar confronts a resident, the burglar will panic and turn violent.”

Mr. Bender complimented police on how they have communicated with residents about the recent uptick in burglaries. However, he said, he worries about the number of officers who will remain in the neighborhood after the surge is over.

“My major concern is just we don’t have enough officers on an ongoing basis up here,” he said. “I think the police are doing the right thing now in terms of concentrating some resources in the area temporarily to bring the spike down but I think we’re at risk of further spikes.”

Amy McVey, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner, agreed that the burglaries are causing anxiety in the community, with people now inquiring about how to reinforce windows and where to purchase security doors.

“People are talking about it,” she said. “They’re more afraid than I’ve known them to be and I’ve lived here my whole life.”

The Washington Times reported this week that at least two of the four youths arrested in a recent burglary in the Spring Valley neighborhood are wards of the city’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS).

The two youths were also wanted in Montgomery County in connection with burglaries in Chevy Chase, along with two other D.C. youths.

Chief Lanier said the vast majority of burglaries occur at unoccupied houses and that many of the cases that do involve juveniles are cases in which a victim is known to the criminal.

She said police don’t often see juveniles engage in burglary. Youths more frequently engage in robbery and carjacking than in burglary, in which criminals sometimes remain active much later in their lives than those participating in other crimes.

“Burglary is one of those things that people don’t age out of as quickly,” she said.

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