The thieves left her unharmed. But they took two laptops, a solar charging panel and her car keys, which they used immediately to get away in her vehicle. Only two months later, burglars struck again, taking a television, an iPod and an iPad.
“I just felt mad,” said Mansfield, 66, a Naylor Park resident for 20 years. “I just wanted someone to give me a gun. I guess I’m glad they didn’t, because the [thieves] would have stolen it.”
Violent crimes such as homicides have been on the decline in the District and nationwide, but property crimes are a persistent problem. While most thieves are out only for high-dollar items, police are acutely aware that break-ins — such as the two at Mansfield’s apartment — can turn dangerous. They also leave neighborhoods on edge.
At Naylor Gardens, small bands of burglars have struck 18 times across the sprawling, 43-acre complex this year, according to the property’s management office.
The burglars target ground-floor apartments with unlocked windows or air conditioning units. They have even pulled out window frames to slip in and steal computers, televisions and other electronics.
Property manager Alesia Johnson said the burglaries, coupled with a rash of daylight muggings at nearby bus stops last year, led dozens of residents to leave Naylor Gardens.
“We have lost 50 tenants. We normally stay 100 percent occupied,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “It seems a lot of people feel unsafe.”
Rose Zuffi, 56, was one resident who fled. She moved to the neighborhood nearly three years ago after she rode past on a bus and fell in love with the classic brick buildings and well-tended lawns.
But on July 4, thieves raided her home while she attended a picnic in Virginia. She found her apartment in disarray and a 40-inch television and laptop missing. The thieves entered through a bathroom window.
One afternoon about six days later, a D.C. police detective called her to come home. Zuffi thought the police had a lead in her case. Instead, authorities informed her of a second break-in.
“The detective told me to move out, so I moved on campus,” said Zuffi, who is a communications student at Trinity Washington University. “I didn’t sleep there ever again. It’s been a nightmare.”
Sixth Police District Cmdr. Robert Contee said that police officials have increased patrols in recent weeks, and no apartments have been burglarized since September. He said that no police officials would or should recommend that anyone move.
He said the burglary problem expanded beyond one complex to other areas nearby.
“It wasn’t just confined to Naylor Gardens. The common denominator is they were going through first-floor units,” Contee said.