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Once Was Not Enough

Car thieves strike with regularity in parts of city.

It's bad to have a car stolen once. But, to have the same car stolen twice within 48 hours can test the patience of even the most dedicated fatalist.

That is exactly what happen to Jan Gilmore of Green Street. Her two month old 2004 Lexus SUV was heisted right in front of her home sometime between August 10-12.

Upon returning from a trip and discovering the vehicle missing, she reported it to the Alexandria police and set about trying to reconstruct what might have happened. In contacting a friend on South St. Asaph Street, she was told her car was parked in that block.

When she went to that location, she discovered her beige SUV parked at the curb. She immediately alerted the police who responded to the location. That's when the second disappearance of that same car was set in motion.

"I was advised by the police to leave the car there for them to fingerprint it. They were going to come and get me at my home when their technician arrived so that I could open the car for them," Gilmore explained. She had her keys and there was no damage to the car or any sign of forced entry.

That was approximately 9 p.m., August 13, Gilmore recalled. By 10:30 that night, when the police cruised past again, the car was still parked on the street because the I.D.Technician had not yet arrived, according to both Gilmore and Alexandria Police Lieutenant John Crawford.

Sometime between 10:30 and 1 a.m., the culprits decided it was time to take final possession. The SUV is now part of a bulging car theft statistic.

When asked why the car was left on the street rather than allowing Gilmore to retrieve it, Crawford explained, "Any further contact with the vehicle may have contaminated it as far as evidence is concerned. I.D. technicians do not want evidence touched before they arrive at any crime scene."

HOWEVER, THE theft of Gilmore's SUV was only the tip of the iceberg for the period August 10-13, in the Yates Gardens area of Alexandria. There were four other auto thefts within a three block radius.

As reported to police, a 2004 Volve SUV was taken from the 900 block of South Lee Street; a 1995 Subaru Legacy from the 800 block of South Lee Street; a 2002 Corvette from the 200 block of Jefferson Street, and a 1993 Honda Accord from the 900 block of South Fairfax Street.

The Honda was parked in the driveway of the home of Ted and Sandra Sullivan. The others were on the street in front of, or close to, the victims' homes.

"I have now learned I owned one of the easiest cars to get into and one of the most wanted by thieves," Sullivan said of his Honda. "Since it was an older car, it did not have an alarm system but we still didn't hear a thing." The driveway is right next to the Sullivan home and immediately behind the Gilmore home.

Ron and Asli Everett's 2004 Volvo SUV was only 10 days old when it went missing from directly in front of their townhome in the 900 block of South Lee Street. "We just discovered it missing when we came out of the house the next morning," said Ron Everett

"It's a little unnerving to find your car stolen right from in front of your house," he said. "We have not heard from the police since we reported it stolen," Asli Everett said. That same response came from those who parted with the Subaru and Corvette.

The Sullivan's verified the police came within an hour of their report to them. "But, there hasn't been any word since that first contact," they said.

WHILE PATROLLING the same area of Yates Gardens, Alexandria Police did discover a car that had been stolen previously from Arlington. It had been parked in the 900 block of South Fairfax Street for several days, according to Sullivan.

"This points up the fact we all need to be willing to inform the police when we see a strange car in the area for several days without being moved," Sullivan said.

Although this rash of auto thefts occurred within a tight area over a short period of time that is not that unusual, according to Crawford. "But, for the south side of Old Town, this is a significant spike in car thefts," he said.

"When we see a spike like this in a given area our Grand Larceny Task Force puts particular attention on that area. It has now definitely heightened its efforts on the south side," Crawford assured.

"We have a very good working relationship with other departments throughout the region as well as with the federal agencies. Auto theft detectives region-wide meet once a month to discuss all aspects of auto thefts and what each group is working on," he explained.

These meetings involve law enforcement personnel from an area stretching from Baltimore, Md., to Fredericksburg, Crawford noted. "Everyday criminal investigators are tracking this stuff," he said.

As for recovery, Crawford pointed out the national average for recovery of stolen autos is 60 percent. "But, Alexandria has averaged 86 percent for the last three years," he emphasized.

In each of the Yates Gardens cases there was no sign of forced entry, such as glass on the street, and no alarms were triggered, according to the victims. As of this writing, all five vehicles are still missing.