Nearly every day for the past several months, a 14-year-old Alexandria boy has been running his own burglary ring, breaking into dozens of houses and apartments with his teen-age accomplices, Alexandria police said yesterday.
The youth, who was arrested Tuesday, would walk from his home on the western end of Duke Street to residences within a three-mile radius. There he allegedly showed his friends how to break in by using a credit card to nudge open a door lock, or a crowbar or screwdriver to pry open a window or shatter it. Then, police said, he would help the others burglarize the home or simply wait outside for them. Always, he would split the loot.
The boy alone is believed responsible for about $4,000 in thefts. Police said they had no estimate of the ring's total take.
"'he was the leader," said police investigator Marcel Minutolo, adding that he did not know how many youths were in the ring. "some friends once showed him how to burglarize places and now it was his turn to show some friends how to do it."
Minutolo said the 14-year-old recruited his accomplices from school and the streets. "he'd flash his money around at a 7-Eleven or some store and impress the other kids," Minutolo said. "that's how he'd attract them."
The youth, who allegedly began burglarizing homes about three years ago, usually would steal money and jewelry.In a few cases, he stole bicycles and toys, police said.
"he and his friends would ransack the bedroom, looking for money in the drawers," Minutolo said. "then he'd spend it on toys and clothes and Slupplies."
Charged with burglary after police matched his fingerprints with those found in two apartments, the youth is in custody in Alexandria awaiting trial as a juvenile. The apartments, which had been burglarized within the last three months, were in the Hamlet Garden apartment complex off N. Beauregard Street.
Police said they had a set of the boy's fingerprints because he had been chargedpreviously with petty larceny, burglary and shoplifting. He was on probation and living part-time at a half-way house in the city when some of the current offenses took place, according to authorities.
When the youth acknowledged during questioning that he had broken into a number of Northern Virgina residences, police said, he was driven around Alexandria to pinpoint the locations.
"He pointed to about 45 places," said Lt. Cliff Church. "At first, we didn't buy it. But then we went back and pulled out the records and indeed there were burglaries at those places."
Some of the apartments and homes that were burglarized were on Quantrell Avenue, Linconia Road, Duke Street, S. Gordon Street, Underwood Place and Essex Court.
In some instances, police said, the youth knew the residents of the apartments or homes. "sometimes they were acquaintances he met," Minutolo said. "he knew when they werent't there. He knew their habits."
Usually, according to authorities, the youth or one of his friends would knock on the door. If someone answered, the youth would ask to see a certain person -- who did not live there -- or would ask if the homeowner neededs his lawn mowed.
Most of the burglaries occurred before noon, and the youths allegedly did about two burglaries each morning. The 14-year-old had not gone to school for about a year, police said.
"His parents didn't have control over him," Minutolo said. The boy lived with his father, a janitor for a high-rise apartment building. The boy's parents do not live together, police said.
Police said there was no evidence that the youth wanted the money for drugs.
"he did it for attention," said a police officer in the youth services division. "he liked to brag about it, give it away or throw the jewelry he stole away."
Minutolo offered another explanation for the youth's behavior.
"he didn't have any guidance," the office said. "he had nothing to do but break into homes and get spending money."