D.C. police plan to meet with downtown business leaders in coming weeks to discuss potential flaws in their security systems after a single man allegedly slipped into dozens of office buildings, committing more than 40 burglaries during the last three months, officials said.
Police declined to say how entry was gained into the buildings. They said an intruder either bypassed electronic key pads and locks or slipped in behind workers entering the buildings, usually in the morning or in the afternoon.
Police announced last week that they had solved the spree when they arrested Richard Williams, 37, of the 2700 block of Shipley Terrace SE on five counts of second-degree burglary. Williams reportedly told police after his arrest on June 30 that he had committed more than 25 burglaries, but detectives believe the total is higher than 40, police officials said.
The Office of the Public Defender, which is representing Williams in the case, declined to comment on the charges.
When detectives took Williams on a tour of the city after his arrest to determine where he had struck, the suspect pointed out so many locations that investigators "couldn't keep up with the number," said Cmdr. Larry McCoy of the 3rd District, where many of the thefts occurred.
"He was pounding us pretty good," McCoy said.
Williams told detectives that he committed five or six burglaries a day to feed a daily $1,000 crack cocaine habit, police wrote in documents filed with the courts.
In court records, police wrote that they were able to catch the suspect through his use of a stolen cellular phone and the sharp eyes of a detective who recognized Williams from previous encounters.
On June 15, the U.S. Secret Service reported that its offices in the 1100 block of L Street NW had been burglarized and that the thief had escaped with six laptops, a portable radio, two personal data assistants and a cellular phone.
Within days, agents gave D.C. police detectives a list of calls made from the stolen phone, according to the arrest warrant.
The next day, David Swinson, the detective who was investigating the case, questioned a witness who had confronted the burglar during an attempted break-in that occurred about 6:50 a.m. June 15 in the 1000 block of 15th Street NW, the investigator wrote in the warrant.
That witness said that the burglar told him that he was looking for a particular woman, then walked away, Swinson wrote.
Swinson then interviewed a different witness who had confronted a man trying to break into another nearby office about 20 minutes after the attempted theft on 15th Street, the warrant said.
That man also told the bystander he was looking for a woman, police said. She had the same name as the one the burglar gave the other witness, according to the warrant.
One of the calls made on the stolen cellular phone was placed to that woman, linking the two attempted break-ins to the Secret Service theft, police said.
The critical clue came when an unidentified detective examined a surveillance photograph taken of the burglar at the attempted break-in on Connecticut Avenue, Swinson wrote.
The detective identified the man in the photograph as Williams, "a burglary suspect he had investigated in the past," according to warrant.
Detectives also traced another call from the stolen phone to one of Williams's relatives, Swinson wrote.
Williams, whom court documents described as having a lengthy record of arrests on burglary charges, was arrested without incident at his home on June 30.