Police Arrest 3 After Theft Stakeout at Service Station

By Clarence Williams and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 23, 2008

D.C. police who were staking out a service station in an effort to stop thefts from cars arrested three suspects yesterday after a purse was stolen, the thieves fled and their getaway car crashed, officials said.

During the incident, which occurred about 1:30 p.m. near a heavily used station on New York Avenue NE, a police officer's pistol discharged. The officer was struck in the foot, police said.

The surveillance of the BP service station at New York and West Virginia avenues, near the Brentwood Village and Ivy City neighborhoods, was part of a program aimed at reducing what police have called a substantial number of crimes.

"We've had significant problems with gas stations with these types of thefts," said Cmdr. Lamar Greene, who heads the 5th Police District.

Police have said that service station customers often leave their vehicle doors unlocked, with valuables easily seen while they pump gasoline or make purchases in station stores.

Part of the effort to curtail thefts at the stations has involved stationing police officers where they can monitor activity at the sites, police said.

In yesterday's incident, according to police, thieves took a purse and then jumped into an automobile to flee.

The getaway car headed west and tried to make a U-turn in traffic, according to police. As it tried to make the turn, it crashed into another car, police said. After the wreck, the occupants fled on foot from pursuing officers, police said.

Police officials said they arrested three young men, one of them 18 and two others 16.

After the incident, a police officer was returning her pistol to its holster when it discharged, police said.

Green said police would investigate to determine whether those arrested were connected with any of the similar thefts from automobiles that have plagued the city.

Last month, the D.C. police and the National Crime Prevention Council joined to initiate an informational program to tell motorists how to avoid thefts at service stations.

At that time, police said the number of thefts from cars at stations had risen sharply in the past two years. In 2006, the number was 89, but last year, 427 such thefts were reported, police said.

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