Dozens of residents attended the meeting Monday at Liberty Elementary School in South Riding, where sheriff’s office detectives discussed the burglaries, shared crime prevention measures and encouraged communities to establish Neighborhood Watch programs.
Investigators said that none of the burglaries reported has involved confrontations with homeowners. In each case, the suspect or suspects entered the homes during daytime or early to mid-evening hours, when residents were not home, detectives said.
Detective Nick Campbell said the burglar or burglars typically gained entry by breaking a glass door in the back of the house.
“Just know that in all of these cases we’ve had, nobody has been home,” he said.
Campbell said there had been reports of similar crimes in some neighboring jurisdictions, including Montgomery, Prince William and Fairfax counties.
“As of right now, it appears that some of those are tied together,” he said. “That should offer some comfort — there isn’t specific targeting.”
But Campbell also noted that victims of certain cultures might be identified as more likely to have gold jewelry. Those valuables should be secured in a safe deposit box or a wall safe, he said.
Area residents of Indian and South Asian descent have been targeted in similar burglaries in the past: In 2009, a pattern of daytime break-ins plagued Northern Virginia residents for months.
Detectives urged community members to take steps to prevent similar crimes, including setting interior lights on a timer; installing movement-activated outside lights; and avoiding other telltale signs of an empty house, such as a pileup of newspapers or an overflowing mailbox.
The most important thing for residents to do, Campbell said, is to be “hyper-vigilant” about any unusual activity in the neighborhood, such as cars or people who seem out of place, or sounds of nearby alarms or breaking glass.
“One little break that you guys provide could be the key to this,” he said.
Deputy Nathan Payne also spoke at the meeting Monday and urged communities to consider establishing Neighborhood Watch programs.
“The hardest part of Neighborhood Watch is getting it started,” Payne said. Participating communities must have at least one representative attend two meetings per year to stay up-to-date and active, he said. If communities don’t meet those basic requirements, the Neighborhood Watch signs are removed and the program is ended.
“If I have these signs in a community that doesn’t enforce them . . . those signs in the entire county are now worthless,” he said. “That’s why I’m a stickler.”
He said one of the targeted communities had started a watch program that lasted for only seven months before it was disbanded because no members were attending the required meetings.
“What I want is open communication with you,” Payne told the meeting attendees. “That keeps the community safer.”
The first of the seven burglaries was reported Dec. 1 after cash was stolen from a home on Lecroy Circle in the Lansdowne area, according to the sheriff’s office. A similar burglary was reported that day on nearby Riverpoint Drive, where a laptop, jewelry and a camera were taken from a home, authorities said.
On Dec. 7, a home on Rainsboro Drive in Ashburn was entered and cash and jewelry were taken, authorities said. Another burglary occurred that day at a house on Queensbridge Drive in Brambleton; a briefcase was taken in that incident, according to the sheriff’s office.
The burglaries have continued this year, detectives said: On Feb. 9, jewelry was stolen from a home on Porch Light Drive. A second home on Camerons Point Court was also entered Feb. 9, but nothing was reported stolen in that case, authorities said.
The most recent burglary occurred Feb. 15, when jewelry was stolen from a home on Freeport Place, according to the sheriff’s office.
Residents are urged to report any suspicious behavior, vehicles or persons by calling the sheriff’s office’s 24-hour, non-emergency phone number, 703-777-1021. In an emergency, residents should call 911.