Dear PoPville – Burglary Alert, A Few Things I Wish I Had Done


Photo by PoPville flickr user sciascia

Dear PoPville,

I am writing to let you know about a burglary we just experienced in 16th st heights. I live in a group house and we came home Thursday (11/15) to see that burglars had broken in, taken lots of computers/chargers/other electronics, left everything disheveled, and left. We’ve talked to the police, but we wanted to make sure everyone takes extra precautions to secure their homes and property. Here are a few things I wish we had done; I’d love it if other people could use these ideas to prevent something similar happening to them:

–Make sure all doors and windows are securely closed and locked. Seems obvious but sometimes there are doors or windows you forget.

–Hide small electronics in very hard to find places. If my external hard drive had been better hidden, I might still have it. It looks like these guys rooted through lots of stuff but were generally in a hurry. Larger electronics may be harder to hide well but think about where you might be able to put things. Consider taking laptops with you to work/school, especially if you will be gone for a few days.

–Write down and securely store serial numbers and other identifying data for all electronics, including laptops, cameras, and phones. E-mail it to yourself or store it online somewhere so you can access it if you lose your computer.

We’re going to check online and see if anyone’s trying to sell our stuff, but if anyone has ideas for ways to try to track it down, we’d love to hear it. We do have a few serial numbers so we might be able to prove some things are ours, but really any ideas are welcome. How have other people dealt with this sort of thing?

41 Comment

  • Unless you have an alarm that notifies the police (which is a very good idea but a lot of group houses don’t bother) I’m not sure hiding things will be helpful. In my experience, burglarers will search every nook and cranny in the house. When it happened to me they even cut holes into our box frames, pulled off some of the receptacle/switch covers, and opened up the desktop computer tower to see if anything was hiding inside.

    How did they get in?

    • Woah, sounds like those burglars have been watching way too many spy movies. I wouldn’t have thought they would get so creative.

      • I just assumed they were crackheads who were accustomed to hiding drugs and cash in their own homes and assumed normal people used the same tactics.

    • Yep. The one time I was robbed (different city), they took off the vent covers to look in the vents for stuff. Criminals know how to get in and out quickly and what hidey-holes to look in.

  • Sorry to hear you had to go through this–same thing happened to our house in Shaw last year. The absolute most important piece of advice for everyone else out in PoPville is to GET RENTERS INSURANCE!!! None of us had it and man do I wish somebody had yelled at me about it (hence the neighborly yelling). As someone who has learned the lesson the very hard way, I can tell you that the $80-100/year that it will cost you is absolutely worth it.

    • Eh, I don’t know. I didn’t get much back from renters insurance (the stuff that was stolen wasn’t worth much to begin with) but the claim hurt me when I tried to apply for homeowners insurance a few years later. Whatever I got back for my stolen items I more than paid for down the road with increased rates.

      • Then why did you file the claim?

        • Presumably the earlier Anonymous didn’t realize that he/she would get so little from doing so.

          • No, I knew my 4-year-old laptop wasn’t worth much but I didn’t know the claim would hurt me so badly later. I just wanted to be able to replace my stolen items. That’s what the claim is intended to cover.

        • Because that’s what renters insurance is for? Because I no longer had a laptop and needed to get a new one?

      • First, I’m sorry for the loss. Having been there before, I know the feeling of having your prized possesions stolen and all your other stuff “rumaged” through by criminal strangers.
        Rule of thumb for any insurance claim… What is your deductible, and what do you think the value of what you lost is worth (and I don’t mean what it was worth new, just for ACV – actual cash value)? For example, if your deductible is $500 and you lost about $1000 in electronics, it’s probably not worth filing the claim since it’s a relatively small ammount and the claim will be underwritten (and scored against you) for the next 3-5 years. You can choose full replacement cost coverage, but that comes at a premium and is probably not worth paying that premium for the long term.

        Save the insurance claim for the BIG ONE.

    • +3264894648741365

      My apt was robbed back in June and had it not been for Renters insurance, there is no way I would have been abpe to replace my Macbook,iPad, and iPod. The only thing I wish I would have done is added replacement value to my policy instead of actual cash value. so the insurance co would not have depreciated my items.

      • I guess if you’re one of those people who has to have all the latest gadgets it’s worthwhile.

        • Or they could need all that stuff for work? My friend is a computer programmer and application designer – he has multiple computers, iPads, and iPhones to make sure all his designs and programs work properly on the different versions. He literally has a box of iPhones. Not everyone has these items as “toys”; for many, they are an integral part of their livelihood such as a graphic designer, a photographer, writers, and telecommuters.

          • Correct, if you’re one of those people who has to have all the latest gadgets (for work or for personal enjoyment) it’s worthwhile to have renters insurance.

          • It’s a little different if you have these egadgets for work because you can have tax breaks, write them off or have the business replace them. I’m not saying that is ideal but if it’s personal stuff, the expense is really all on you.

  • First, I am so sorry. Getting robbed is such a horrible, violating event that no one should have to go through.

    In reference to locating stolen computers and laptops, you are actually able to locate your computer if you had a cloud type program. I don’t know that much about how it works exactly, but if you had iCloud or some type of dropbox software you should be able to locate the computers. Keep your eyes on craigslist and apparently the cops work with pawn shops, so if you had any serial numbers that would cover that avenue as well.

    Best of luck.

  • We were also robbed a week ago on Saturday night. We do have an alarm and bars on our windows. We think we must have accident left one of the windows unlocked accidently. They used a cordless, electric saw to cut off one of our bars and got in through the window that way. We can tell by a footprint on the back door that they tried to kick it down but they failed. They set off the alarm so did not have much time in our house but were still able to get a few small electronics. We obviously had a false sense of security with the bars and alarm!

    • My bars, which were the thick heavy-duty kind, were bent when I was burglarized. These things are a good deterrent but they definitely do not prevent people with the right tools from getting in.

      • Also check the bricks where the bars are fastened into the wall. It is common (according to the police!) for burglars to simply chisel the bolts out of the bricks and pull the bars off.

        A friend in nice, “safe” Vienna VA had her home burglarized while on vacation. They got her suitcases out of the closet and filled them up with everything – electronics & nice jewelry yes, but also a blender, her 8 year old’s jewelry box & Justin Beiber perfume!

    • That’s crazy. And totally scary that none of your neighbors noticed/heard someone using a power-saw on your windows. WTF.

      • Agreed! And…it wasn’t even that late, like 11:30pm. I live close to U St, so my neighborhood is loud, but still…

  • You are not the only one. These same electronics-focused theives have hit a ton of people in the Shaw/Ledroit Park/Bloomingdale area, including me. Make sure your back doors are solid and your alarm systems are on, folks. They always come in the back door, preferably through an alley.

  • It’s probably too late for you… but for others… there is multiple software possibilities for tracking. The one that I like the best is Prey: http://preyproject.com/

  • Look for your stuff at the “flea market” at the corner of 9th & U NW. A couple of my friends who were robbed (separate houses) found their stuff for sale there. They’ll give it back to you no questions asked so they don’t get busted.

  • Renter’s Insurance! It is absolutely worth it. To make sure RI comes through for you, write down serial #’s and take pictures of your valuables. It might seem weird, but it won’t when you get a check in the mail. Getting burgled sucked, but having $1200 to replace the most important items definitely helped.

    Apt dwellers… use your deadbolt. We lived in a nice bldg w/ datakey outer doors, then steel doors w different keys. We felt very secure, so we didn’t always lock our deadbolt. Some of our neighbors didn’t lock their doors at all. It was a false sense of security and we felt really dumb when all of our stuff got stolen.

  • There was a Post article on theft prevention a few years ago. The one thing I recall is that they like to be in and out in 90 seconds. Someone posted here that a thief looked in all sorts of places, so obviously they weren’t concerned about the 90 second rule! But, just to be safe, it doesn’t hurt to hide small valuables in places other than the obvious, such as dresser drawers. Safes are fairly cheap, and you can get a fireproof one, too. It’s one thing to break into a place and either follow the 90 second in-and-out idea or not follow it, but I’d definitely say that stuffing a safe in your pocket and running down the street is harder than putting small things in your pockets as you escape the crime scene.

  • If I may be so bold as to ask: whereabouts in Sixteenth Street Heights are you? Obviously, no need for an exact address, but as a resident in the area, a general location would be helpful.

  • Can always purchase a gun

  • love my dogs. :-)

  • The cops who respond will find any excuse to screw with you, so don’t give them ammunition. Specifically, if you own a hookah, or even an ashtray, take a few moments to hide that stuff so they don’t accuse you of smoking pot (even if you don’t). If you’ve ever been burglarized you know how scared and violated you already feel, and it makes the situation so much worse to be verbally abused and threatened by the people who are supposed to be helping. Especially when you did absolutely nothing wrong!

  • When we were robbed (they kicked in a basement window and crawled through) they got my husband’s laptop, which was put away out of sight but not hidden. But I had hidden mine in the cookie sheets and they did not find it. They did get bikes, a flat screen TV, other stuff. Renters insurance replaced everything.

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