Steady thefts of GPS devices and other goods, police say

January 21, 2012

Three weeks into the new year, one of the troubling crime trends of 2011 has continued and possibly increased: theft. Throughout the Washington area, thieves have been grabbing items from parked cars, snatching packages from porches and making off with quantities of copper.

In the past 10 days, thefts from cars in the Capitol Hill area have surged. Police said they have tallied 15 reports of such incidents since early this month.

And in Northeast Washington, an additional half-dozen thefts from cars were reported over a brief period.

A variety of explanations has been offered. One is the enduring appeal of expensive, easily portable electronic equipment.

“GPS units are still hot-ticket items for thieves,” residents of the city’s 4th Police District were told last week.

Global Positioning System devices were taken in three-quarters of the thefts in a 48-hour period last week in the Capitol Hill section between Sixth and Eighth streets and North Carolina Avenue SE and A Street NE.

The allure of the devices does not diminish in the suburbs. On Jan. 2, police were told that someone smashed a car-door window in a garage on Quantrell Avenue in Alexandria.

In addition to cash, a drill and small tools, items taken included an iPod and two GPS devices, police said.

One suggestion police suggested for curbing the theft of attractive electronic devices: Don’t leave them in your car overnight.

Residents were reminded that a charger in the car could indicate the presence of a device. “Please keep these accessories out of plain view,” a D.C. police community outreach officer said.

D. C. police have said they have arranged patrols to try to stop the thefts. But city residents were told that their cooperation is necessary.

“We need your assistance” in reporting suspicious activity and reducing the opportunities for thieves, a police official told Capitol Hill residents.

It appears that thieves have also continued this year to avail themselves of other opportunities for larceny. The period before the holiday season is typically a time for packages to appear on doorsteps, and thieves were active then. But even in the post-holiday period, reports of missing deliveries have continued.

This month, a Capitol Hill resident reported the loss — for a third time this season — of a package that had been placed under her porch steps.

In another incident, a package was taken from a porch Wednesday in Upper Northwest Washington.

On Tuesday, someone told Alexandria police that a package delivered to her front door on North Patrick Street had been opened and its contents removed. The same thing happened the previous week, the victim reported.

The theft of copper has appeared to fluctuate over time, but it, too, has continued into the new year.

On Jan. 3, Alexandria police received a report that five rolls of copper wire had been stolen from a construction site on East Monroe Avenue.

Last Sunday, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office learned that copper wire was taken from a hardware store in the South Riding section. And burglars stole copper wiring valued at about $7,000 from a warehouse on Robertson Drive in Manassas the night of Jan. 11, Prince William police said.

Thieves, of course, do not confine their activities to taking GPS devices and copper wire.

On Jan. 9, for example, an item was taken from a front yard on Wilson Avenue in Alexandria. The item was a planter.

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