“These two crimes have been the biggest problem we have for the past six months,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in an e-mail.
Violent crime in the District is down modestly in 2011. Gun crimes are on the decline, though homicides, at 20, are up from 18 at this time last year. Robberies have also increased slightly. Lanier cautioned against drawing conclusions from the homicide figures because it’s still early in the year and the total is close to last year’s number.
Property crime, however, is a different story. The Dupont Circle area has had 53 burglaries this year. At this time last year, it had 15.
“My mouth literally dropped when I looked at the numbers,” said Matt Rhoades, a Dupont Circle resident who edits Borderstan, a Web site that covers the Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and U Street neighborhoods.
Across the city, property crime is being driven in part by thieves who smash in back doors and squeeze through unlocked windows, then make off with cash, iPads, televisions and other valuables.
Some residents say they are steeling themselves for the warm-weather months, when criminals historically come out in force as more people spend time outdoors.
“We’re bracing for a bad summer,” said Anacostia resident Catherine Buell, who is worried about a sustained uptick in break-ins in her neighborhood. “I am genuinely concerned.”
The presence of crime can be deceptive, said Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who represents neighborhoods including Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Police agree, noting bustling commercial strips where thieves make quick work of iPhones sitting on tables while their owners sip coffee.
“Everything feels safe, and you forget you’re in an inner-city neighborhood,” Evans said. In his ward, property crime has increased 46 percent this year over the same period in 2010.
“It’s widespread,” said Capt. Jeffrey Herold of the 2nd District, which has distinct boundaries from Ward 2 but includes Dupont Circle. Extra patrols and specialized units have been dispatched to areas that have experienced sharp increases in burglaries and other property crime, Herold said.
They are also trying to help residents protect themselves, saying many property crimes are acts of opportunity.
“If I see you walking down the street talking on the phone, I might stop you and say it’s not a good idea,” said Jacob Kishter, commander of the 3rd District, which includes Columbia Heights, U Street and Adams Morgan.