“We need people to lock their car doors.” That is the message that Capt. Mike Kline, commander, Mount Vernon District Station, and MPO Greg Kottemann, Crime Prevention Officer, want to get out to the residents of Mount Vernon.
While it won’t stop all crimes, they believe that it will cut down on the number of car thefts and vandalism that have been prevalent in this area for quite some time now.
“A trend has developed in the last months called ‘car hopping,’” Kline said. “This is not a new phenomenon nationally, but it appears to be new to Mount Vernon or perhaps just in vogue. Car hopping is when teens go through communities, enter open vehicles and take anything of value they can get their grubby little hands on.”
Kline didn’t have the exact numbers, but said that they have had well over 100 of these events in the last month along the George Washington Parkway corridor.
He said PFC Brad Weeks had a case on Oct. 30 when he caught three suspects going through vehicles on Southdown Road off the George Washington Parkway.
“He was able to track them down and make charges against them and recover property,” Kline said. “He has also identified more suspects with Detective Clarke and the case is going forward.
“The fact that these events continue even after several arrests have been made can only mean that there are many people involved in this activity. These suspects are bold, brazen and not afraid of being caught by the homeowners as some vehicles were in the carport or right next to the home when entered.”
CAR HOPPING IS COMMITTED IN CLUSTERS. At 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 21, a stolen Lexus with D.C plates was abandoned on Washington Avenue just off the George Washington Parkway in the Wellington Community and set ablaze.
A short time later, a 4x4 GMC Yukon was taken from the next block.
That Yukon was tracked by “On-Star” and recovered in Maryland near FedEx Field. The truck’s thief was arrested.
“There have also been many vehicles stolen, culminating this Monday morning with the theft in Wellington. It is unknown at this time if this case will be connected with our car hoppings or other auto thefts, but we are working to find out,” Kline said
Barb and Lou Haley live on Westmoreland at the bottom of the hill. Barb Haley said someone had rummaged through her husband’s car.
“[That same night] someone was in my husband's car and made a mess of the things in his car. He hasn't discovered anything missing yet. I called the police. We will file a report on-line,” she said. “I'm just glad that my kids didn't run into these people. They swim in the morning and should have left the house at 4 a.m.”
Haley said her children were running late and she drove them, otherwise they would have probably disturbed the thieves in her husband’s car or the ones setting fire to the vehicle up the street.
“Very scary,” Haley said.
Haley is convinced that the thief was looking for keys. Kottemann said that the key was in the Yukon when it was stolen.
“WE’RE FINDING that a lot of cars have a key inside,” Kottemann said. “People know that they shouldn’t leave keys in the car but sometimes they forget. We firmly believe that the best defense is to lock the car. An unlocked car with property inside is an inviting target and thieves will keep coming back until that’s not the case.”
Kottemann said that some people leave their cars unlocked because they fear that if they don’t their windows will be smashed. He finds that doesn’t happen very often with thieves preferring to hit unlocked cars.
“Locking doors is a big thing—and not keeping anything of value” in the car, Kottemann said.
He suggests removing expensive radios, CD players, iPods, computers and anything of value.
FCPD Crime Analyst Amisha Amin reported that with 80 percent of all larceny from vehicle cases, the complainant reported leaving the door unlocked. It should be noted that in majority of these cases, valuable items were left in the car in plain sight, making it effortless for the offender to take items.