One house in Northeast Washington’s Brookland was burglarized as the female occupant and her young daughter slept. It was timed, the owner believes, to occur shortly after a contractor doing renovations had taken off the iron window bars and disconnected the alarm.
Another homeowner said a burglar broke in to his home moments after he had set off on his daily routine, as if the burglar had been lurking. Still another break-in occurred Sunday morning as a family attended church.
Residents throughout Brookland and the neighboring communities of Michigan Park and Edgewood are voicing concern over a spike in burglaries and other crimes. The increases largely are centered in residential areas in the midst of the District’s resurgence — enclaves off Rhode Island Avenue stretching north along the Metrorail’s Red Line to Fort Totten, where homes can fetch a half-million dollars or more.
“I was terrified,” said Jennifer Terry, a high school teacher who, along with her 12-year-old daughter, was asleep when someone plucked a rock from her neighbor’s garden and threw it through a back window to gain entry.
“This person had been watching my house,” she said. “This was not random.”
In the police patrol area covering Brookland, D.C. crime statistics show that 44 burglaries have occurred this year, up from 37 at this point in 2013. The break-ins jumped in the past month — 11 compared with five during the same time last year. Thefts from vehicles also surged, from 98 reported in the first eight months of 2013 to 184 this year. In Michigan Park, burglaries are up to 68 this year from 44 in 2013. Police said 20 have occurred in the past month, compared with three during the same period in 2013.
Armed and unarmed robberies and shootings have dropped in both neighborhoods, although the unsolved strangulation in May of 75-year-old Brookland matriarch Mary Houston, who had Alzheimer’s and was killed in an abandoned warehouse while walking home from lunch, still frightens people.
Residents have taken to community and police Internet boards to ask for help. A meeting involving police is being planned, as is a neighborhood watch seminar. Jack Pfeiffer, a former aide to D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and a Brookland resident, received reassuring news about a recent arrest from a police official.
Cmdr. Kimberly Chisley-Missouri, who heads the 4th Police District, which includes Michigan Park and part of Brookland, said in her e-mail to Pfeiffer that someone tied to burglaries in at least two of the neighborhoods is in custody.
But Chisley-Missouri cautioned, “Unfortunately, we are still experiencing burglaries.” She said detectives “are looking to see if these are related” or similar to others. Kimberly-Missouri advised, “In the meantime, please remain vigilant, utilize alarm systems if you have them, secure doors and windows.”
A D.C. police spokeswoman declined a request to interview commanders, referring instead to Kimberly-Missouri’s e-mail.
Pfeiffer, who has not been victimized, said that the burglars “have become more and more brazen,” hitting houses after people leave for church and breaking into homes even while occupied. “Usually, crime goes down once school starts, but we’re moving into September and it seems to continue to escalate,” he said.
A 40-year-old Brookland resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no one has been arrested in his break-in, said he had just left his house when someone reached through iron window bars, shoved aside a screen, and managed to reach through and open a deadbolt lock from the inside. It occurred between 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Aug. 27, and he lost two laptop computers, an Xbox and a tote bag.
“It was as if the person was watching us and knew our pattern,” said the man, who lives there with his wife and grew up in Brookland.
Terry, 42, the teacher whose house was burglarized while she and her daughter slept, said she moved to Brookland from near Gallaudet University because the neighborhood seemed safer and more up and coming. She said her daughter discovered the break-in. “She came upstairs and said, ‘Mommy, the window broke.’ ”
Terry rushed downstairs and found a rock and broken glass on her living room floor. Then she noticed her car keys missing. She saw her Jeep was no longer out front. Police found the vehicle the next day and told her it had crashed in Northwest Washington near the Maryland line. She said detectives told her it had been used in a robbery, then abandoned, with beer cans left inside. Police are holding it as evidence.
Meanwhile, Terry said she had to send her daughter to a friend’s house so she would not see all the police inside, find a new way to get to work in Maryland and change the locks on her house. She does not think the problem is all from outsiders.
“There’s an element that got in here and is going through the neighborhood,” Terry said.