A slim 20-year-old of medium height stood with his left arm behind his back as the charge was read by the court clerk. He had been arrested for shoplifting during Christmas rush.
The man, who is unemployed, allegedly stole four boxes of flatware and two boxes of cologne from the downtown Woodward & Lothrop store last Friday. He pleaded not guilty.
He is one of dozens of Washintonians who have been arrested in the past weeks for crimes against property especially larcenies and burglaries, which tend to surge during the holiday season.
They have been teen-agers and adults, unemployed and employed from the public housing projects in Southeast to middle-class homes in Northwest Washington. Their victims have been not only large stores but also shopers and homeowners.
"Crime goes up just before Christmas," said Assistant D.C. Police Chief Maurice Turner. "The thieves are out shopping for their friends and relatives."
In the District, larcenies, which include shoplifting, and burglaries account for most of the seasonal 10 percent increase in property crimes.
Just last Saturday a team of four shoplifters diverted the attention of employes at the gift shop in the Madison Hotel long enough to make off with $13,000 worth of necklaces, rings and chains.
Shopers laden with purchases have locked then in the trunks of their cars only to return to find their trunks broken into and their gifts gone.
Burglars stalk the homes of those out of town for the holidays. and bandits rob people on the street and in stores. But behind each crime is a story.
Last week in D.C. arraignment court a 57-year-old unemployed father appeared after being arrested Tuesday for stealing six pairs of boys slacks valued at $88 from a downtown Hect's store.
He was placed on $1,500 bond.
An unemployed mother of three children, was arrested Friday for shoplifting some Christmas oranaments from a Giant Food store.
Standing in the hallway of the D.C. Superior Court, dressed in jeans and a blue pea coat with a green skull cap pulled down around her ears, she told a reporter she had taken the ornaments to decorate her niece's hospital room.
She said her 27-year-old niece had been depressed about going into the hospital during the holiday.
In court, however, she pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on personal bond.
Because of the increased crimes during the holiday season, several police officers have been assigned to downtown stores to help nab the thieves.
One robber led security officers and D.C. police on a chase after he robbed the handbag counter at Woodward & Lothrop on a recent busy Sunday.
The robber produced a sawed-off shotgun, reached into the cash register, took $90 and fled from the store with security officers in hot pursuit.
He hid in a trash dumpster in an alley near the store as police and a K-9 dog searched the area. The K-9 dog was placed briefly in the dumpster, police said, but he gave no apparent indication that the man was in there.
Two hours later, the man, who is unemployed, emerged from the dumpster and was arrested by police. He had a dog bite on his hand.
Police said there have been reports of burglars stealing Christmas trees complete with decorations. Some thieves have even taken gifts from under Christmas trees.
Turner said that crime normally tapers off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as the thieves celebrate the holiday, too.
But two or three days after Christmas, he said, crime begins to rise again.