Dear PoPville – Car Break In and Crime in Woodley Park

Photo by PoPville flickr user bajidc

Dear PoPville,

I read the letter towards the beginning of December regarding a rash of car break-ins in Mt. Pleasant, and wanted to let you know about a similar incident that happened outside my apartment in Woodley Park. My boyfriend parked his car overnight on Woodley Place (around the corner from Calvert and Connecticut). Sometime between 9pm and 10:30am, someone smashed his back window and stole his work laptop. They also removed his gym bag (we found the contents strewn across the alley nearby) but didn’t take anything from it. There was also a bunch of sports equipment in the trunk, but they didn’t touch any of it.

I have always considered our neighborhood one of the safest in DC, and was pretty shocked that this happened. On a related note, about a month ago, we got an e-mail from our building manager saying that our door would now be locked 24 hours a day and require your key fob to access at all times (there is also a 24-hour door person, but the entrance would typically be left unlocked during the day and only require the key fob at night). I’ve asked our manager if there was any particular impetus for the change, and he gave me a vague answer about the neighborhood “changing,” and told me not to prop our doors open when we go to the laundry or trash rooms in the building. I was curious if any readers know of a specific incident that may have triggered this extra security, or if there has been a reported increase in crime in the Woodley area.

Ed. Note: A good reminder and not but blaming the victim but never, ever, leave a lap top or any electronics in your car overnight. Also never leave any bags visible in your car even if they have nothing of value.

As for general crime in Woodley Park – the day [Jan. 2] I looked at this email (and it could be a coincidence) I saw the following tweets from DCPoliceDept:

“Robbery Fear_1944 hrs_3100 Block of Catherdral Ave, NW_Lookout is for 2 B/M’s, 5’7-5’8′”


“Robbery Force and Violence_1930 hrs_3000Block of 32nd St, NW_2 males of unknown race”

Like I said that could’ve just been odd timing. Personally, I still feel extremely safe whenever I am in Woodley Park (which is often.) In fact not once (knock wood, knock wood) have I ever experienced an uncomfortable incident in Woodley Park. It is very rare that I hear about crime in Woodley Park aside from car break ins.

35 Comment

  • I lived in Woodley Park for 7 years, in a ground floor, courtyard apartment, and last August, someone broke into our apartment while we were sleeping. They came in through the windows (that they jimmied open). They stole my husband’s laptop, my car keys, all of the purses/bags I had on our coat rack (luckily, none of them actually had my wallet in them, they were just work bags I would switch out), my cell phone and my husband’s gym bag. They had anticipated taking my laptop too, but I think got spooked b/c it was moved, but not taken. When we woke up (this all happened around 4AM), we realized something was not right. Around 6AM, our front desk called and said that someone had found my portfolio bag on 29th Street and returned it to the building (my portfolio had my address on it), which is when the front desk called down to tell us someone had found it. My husband then went and walked around the block, and low and behold, found all of my purses and the contents thrown along two blocks. MORAL OF MY STORY, they wanted electronics and that’s it. The cops said they are the easiest and fastest way to get $$ and have little chance of being tracked. No where is 100% safe, so always be on the lookout and be smart.

  • PoP have you ever experienced crime on your walks? I imagine you walk a lot and have a camera and cell phone that comes out of your bag or pocket every so often which could make you a target. Just curious but hope not.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Only two or three times in 5 years have I thought I was gonna get robbed. One time I was in an alley off North Capitol Street near Florida Ave a few years ago. I simply sprinted away like an Olympic track star and all was good. In the old fight or flight – I’m 99% flight. Another time a car abruptly pulled over in front of me on a deserted street and I think I must’ve put up a 4.3 second dash in the 40…

      A number of years ago some kids threw rocks at me.

      But for the most part the only crime I encounter on walkabouts is stumbling upon drug deals.

      Given all the crime emails I read everyday it is safe to say I’m fairly alert on my walks 🙂

  • Also – I will add don’t leave any change visible in your car….while you may not care about that quarter or a few nickels that are in your console…you will care about the smashed window and all the money that entails!

    • Emmaleigh504

      My experience with leaving change and even ones in my car was that no one bothered to take the money. I used to have a beat up old truck that I never locked because replacing windows would cost more than the truck. People were looking for guns, drugs, electronics, they never stole the truck or the spare change. And for the most part, people were really neat when they tossed my truck. Only once did I come back to it being trashed.

      But my experience may not be your experience, and I totally agree, don’t leave anything in sight.

  • This is not surprising. Criminals go where the good stuff is. Go to a safe neighborhood where people let their guard down, and one is bound to find lots of good opportunities.

  • I think a lot of neighborhoods are experiencing more crime. Here in Glover Park there has been a rash of armed robberies, something that is almost unheard of, and I have heard that there have been some in Tenleytown too, possibly the same people.

    Times are tough, and they will probably get tougher. People get desperate. Honestly I don’t know why it took the hood rats this long to figure out there are easy pickings in Upper NW. They are trying to combat this with increased police presence, but the police can’t be everywhere. I’d be up for some good old fashioned vigilante patrols, but of course the 2nd Amendment takes a vacation at the DC border.

  • While neighborhoods like Woodley don’t have a whole lot of drugged-out hoodlums murdering each other, they certainly get their share of home burglaries and car break-ins. With the fast-growing divide between the haves and the have-nots in this town, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this type of crime is growing.

  • christanel

    It always strikes me as ridiculous when someone says I can’t believe this happened and they left a laptop in the car.

    • Right. And I think there is a difference between blaming the victim and rightly pointing out that there are steps everyone can take to lessen the chances that they will become a victim of a crime. There are also things that can do that will increase your chances, like leaving a lap top in the back seat of your car.

  • concealed carry is here. a .38 snub-nose, hollow-point bullets & they can call 911 on their stolen cell-phones as they bleed out. Sorry, boo… mama can’t help you now.

  • hard, but deserved lesson about living in DC or any city. you leave any bag visible in your car, it will be broken into. it doesn’t matter if you park in georgetown or barry farm, it will get broken into. in fact, i would imagine wealthy neighborhoods are probably even more likely to have cars broken into. people in woodley park have nice things. like laptops. that they leave in their cars.

  • I park overnight in this exact area all the time; lately the streets have been full of broken auto glass. Whoever is doing this is a serial offender.

    In any case, this is why I never leave any loose objects visible in my car. Not an empty plastic bottle, not an empty shopping bag, nothing. All cables are stowed out of view in the center console. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but that is the price of living in the big city. Haven’t had a break-in yet.

    My car also has an alarm, although I doubt that makes much difference.

  • Anyone know if carrying pepper spray in DC is illegal? I’ve started walking with it in my hand when walking at night around U Street. Obviously, I would only use it for defense and not for an XBox at Wal-Mart.

    • “These personal security items may be purchased in the state, but before a citizen may legally possess any type of safety spray they must first register the weapon at a local police station. This allows law enforcement officers to know exactly who is carrying any type of defense spray and to help make sure they are used in a lawful manner. Only people who are 18 years or older may purchase and register a canister of spray on their own, but anyone 14 or older may do so as long as they have the permission of a parent or legal guardian.”

  • Unfortunately the DC Crime Map website ( is down right now, but it’s normally a great way to look up any address in the city (or cross streets) and find out the number and types of crimes that have been reported in a given area (and you can compare time periods to see if certain crimes have gone up or down in frequency). When I first moved to DC 10 years ago, my roommates in the group house I moved into explained that although violent crime in the neighborhood was almost nonexistent (I lived off of Foxhall Rd, near Georgetown), property crime and car theft/break-ins were not uncommon. Everyone has their own personal comfort level when it comes to crime and the steps they’re willing to take to prevent it (personally I would never want to live in a building which left its’ main entrance unlocked), but I agree with PoP that not leaving anything of value (or a bag that could contain something valuable) visible in your car is a relatively simple step to take to avoid becoming a target for a thief (and not just in the city).

  • protip.. disconnect the ability to open the trunk from inside of the car… make it so you can only use the keys to open the trunk. Many cars have this ability.. at least my 1995 honda accord does and it has saved me more than once.

  • I live in the residential part of Adams Morgan, just by Walter Pierce park, and I see broken car window glass just about every morning on Ontario Rd. So I bet whoever’s responsible for the car break-ins in AM is making their way across the bridge to Woodley.

    Over the summer I saw two kids, maybe 19 or 20 years old, riding their bikes around the streets in the neighborhood and looking into car windows, obviously looking for stuff to take. There are usually cops around, and I let them know about the one kid who I got a good look at, but there’s only so much they can do, esp. since these two were on bikes. This was early in the evening, too, around 8:00. Really underlined the fact that if there’s anything visible in a car, that car becomes a target.

    • I noticed three broken car windows (glass shattered on the ground) on Tuesday morning on Euclid Street between 16th Street and Columbia Road. Seems like there is an issue throughout the area.

      • Yeah, I walk down 15th st. from Euclid to U St. every morning and it seems at least one car/week has a shattered window.

    • Kalorini

      I was about to say the same thing. The car window breaking in that 15th-18th section of Adams Morgan is the most I’ve seen in the 3 years I’ve lived in this area. I’m tempted to leave my car parked out in Virginia (for free!) until that dies down.

      Funny enough, the only time my window has ever been broken was in Van Ness–some brat decided it would be fun to smash in a sunroof. Much more expensive to replace!!

  • Comment/caution for car owners-

    People say not to store electronics in the car, but to rather lock any items of value in the trunk of your car. However, many cars have access to trunks through the back seat, such as a fold-down seat to stow extra-long items. I used to store my gps in my trunk when not in use, but I wised up one day!

    • Locking something in your trunk isn’t 100% safe — especially if a potential thief SEES you put it in the trunk — but it’s definitely better than leaving it in plain view.

      There’s no guarantee that if you have nothing visible in your car, a thief still won’t break in to see what’s in your trunk… but I think it reduces the likelihood immensely. Unless he’s seen you put something in the trunk, or caught a glimpse of something when the trunk was open, it seems like a lot of bother with very uncertain payoff (compared to breaking into a car that has stuff visible inside).

  • Maybe I am overly suspicious but the “extra security” in her building that this person describes sounds like the bare minimum security that should have been present all along. What’s the point of having a security system at the front of your building if the door is open during the day? So what if there is a doorperson. Why would you want to rely on that person’s discretion and memory to determine whether or not someone belongs in the building? If you don’t have a key or can’t get buzzed into the building, you shouldn’t be there. And if I still lived in an apartment building, I would lock my apartment door whenever I left the apartment – even if it was just to go to the laundry room. I lived in a small co-op where I knew every other owner and I still kept my door locked. You never know who’s in the building.
    As far as a spike in thefts from cars, I don’t know about Woodley Park, but the last issue of Park View News had MPD numbers showing that thefts from autos in the relevant PSA were up 179% compared to the same month last year. Total crime was up 40% but all of that was attributable to increases in thefts and thefts from auto. Maybe the thieves moved to Woodley Park because they’ve tapped out Park View.

  • My introduction (or shall I say induction) to Washington DC and more specifically Woodley Park came three years ago when I moved into the area. Rookie mistake is leaving ANYTHING in your car. Bigger mistake is leaving anything that resembles something that holds a computer. I did both and my driver’s side window was smashed and briefcase taken (contents strewn along the sidewalk). Two weeks later, nothing was left visible, but the back window was smashed and center console rummaged (nothing taken).
    My advice is don’t leave anything visible if possible, especially with out-of-state tags, because I think “they” think out of staters don’t know any better.
    MPD set up decoy cars after it became evident this was a targeted area for thieves. Not sure if they ended up catching anyone or not.
    Bottom line, other posters are correct, if you leave anything visible you leave yourself vulnerable to break-ins. I personally feel that out-of-state tags get targeted more often as well.
    This leads to the age old posting question of “Is it better to just leave your car unlocked if you have nothing valuable in it….?”
    It sucks, but it is the world we live in…..

  • My roomate and I have lived in a basement appt on the corner of Calvert Street and Adams Mills for almost a year now. Our apartment was broken into during the summer and I had my laptop, Ipod “cup” of change (literally 4 dollars worth of nickels and dimes) stolen, while my roommate had his PS3 stolen. The Thief or thieves came in from our side alley way into my bedroom window. What I failed to notice, and I still kick myself to this day, was that my window was not properly locked, as I had just assumed our building had properly locked it, nope. We both consider that we got off lucky as everything that was stolen could be replaced. Still with that being said, I feel as that Woodley Park is a safe area. I never feel worried about walking around Calvert Street or adjacent side street. Just bad luck is all.

  • My 20 year old cousin arrived in DC for his summer internship, parked his car by the zoo, and came back to a broken window, no iPod, and no GPS. As you can imagine, he is not a city type, and he’s not planning on moving back here in the future.

  • My car got broken into right by the OP on new years day. I think they saw my gps bracket and assumed it was still in the car. They were wrong – i take all electronics out. Silly me didnt think to take out the 2 dollar mounting bracket. Happy new year – 300 dollars to fix the smashed window.

  • The 24 hour security in your building would be the same protocol you’d find in a lot of suburban buildings, as well as most in the District. Leaving stuff in your car is just an invitation. OTOH, crime is cyclical; often just one or two people, and unpredictable. I lived in Adams Morgan in the early 90s when there was much more crime than now. I had neighbors who’d lived in the building for decades and getting a little frail. They just rolled their eyes when other people would get hysterical about something—the most vocal people would ant to do something radical–expensive and likely to create new problems, but were never willing to do something preventive like networking with other buildings or the block clubs, and doing an orange hat type patrol.

    I’ve never had a problem in DC (and I’ve lived here twice–5 yrs the 1st time, 6 years the second) and I’m out at different hours and in different places. I did have a break-in years back when I lived in Chicago. I suspected it was an “inside job” as I had just bought a new tv from a store nearby. OTOH, stuff happens everywhere–we had a serious break-in when I was a kid—our house was in an area where things very rarely happened. There wasn’t a serious crime in the neighborhood in the next 10-15 years.

  • Well, let’s add to the fun of 2012!! And add this into the journal, when you neighbor knocks on your door & rings your doorbell before 7:00 am, all is not right in the world.

    Both our cars were broken into, in addition to the window, they got my GPS & stand, iPod, and a bootsy-ass charger. All items were hidden inside the center console except for the stand. As posted above, they must have figured out that GPS Stand = GPS.

    Living in the big city…

  • Anyone know anything about the assault and burglary on the 2600 block of Connecticut yesterday/last night? I work on that block and there have been several assaults and burglaries at the local businesses within the last year.

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