By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Wanted: Stolen car. Make and model: Ford Crown Victoria. Owner: D.C. police department.
Reported stolen by: Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
So goes the saga of car theft in the District, where even the police chief's department-issued car can get swiped a block from his home.
"There is not a whole lot to add to it," Ramsey said. "The car was taken, and there was nothing of real value in it. Cars are getting stolen every day."
D.C. police officials said Ramsey's black unmarked car was stolen between Friday night and Sunday morning from a street in Southwest Washington. It had been left there Friday by a member of the force's motor pool so Ramsey would have it when he returned from a one-week trip to a counter-terrorism conference in Scotland.
Ramsey arrived home early Sunday. When he awoke to go to church later that morning, he couldn't find the black Crown Victoria, and he and his wife went to church in her personal car, he said.
The chief said initially he thought there was simply a misunderstanding about where the motor pool officer had left the car. But yesterday morning, after another fruitless search for the vehicle, he concluded that it had been stolen.
Police officials said they do not believe the thieves knew they were taking the police chief's car. No weapons were left in the Crown Victoria, but it was equipped with a police radio. Its trunk contained a large duffle bag filled with some of the chief's riot gear, police said.
Union officials said the chief should be investigated for leaving the gear unattended because officers would be disciplined in a similar situation, a claim that the chief denied.
"It's embarrassing," said Sgt. Gregory I. Greene, chairman of the D.C. police labor committee for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1. "The chief is responsible for his own equipment."
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, said the theft of Ramsey's unmarked car shows how serious the area's auto theft problem has become.
"People are going to say, 'If the chief's car is stolen, how do I know that my car is safe?' " Mendelson said. "This just points to the fact that lots of cars are stolen in the city."
A few hours after Ramsey reported the theft, investigators passed out fliers to commanders and other supervisors that described the missing Crown Victoria, which has District tags AL-6072. Although police do not distribute fliers for most stolen cars, investigators said they routinely do so when departmental vehicles are pinched.
Ramsey and other police officials said the theft of the car is not indicative of crime trends, which show auto theft dropping substantially in the city.
Through mid-June, police recorded 2,759 auto thefts, down 29 percent from the 3,880 tallied during the same period last year. In all of last year, 8,136 cars were stolen in the District -- a decrease of almost 15 percent from the 9,549 car thefts recorded in 2003, according to FBI statistics.
Ramsey is not the area's only top law enforcement official to have a car stolen in recent years. The van of Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey was stolen from in front of his house in 2002.
The county's auto theft rate has almost doubled in the past five years, with 18,485 cars reported stolen in 2004.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.