“Brazen mid-day break in yesterday” – Time to Hide the Car Keys?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Edwin Andino

From an understandably frustrated email:

“The thieves in our neighborhood are getting more brazen. Yesterday, just before 12:30 PM, thieves kicked in our front door (Decatur Street near Sherman Circle). Luckily our alarm went off quickly, scaring them off before they took too much and alerting us and MPD quickly. Our family and pets are ok, but they made off with some laptops and one of our cars (keys were on the kitchen counter…).

If you see a silver 2 door Mini Cooper, DC plate DX9945, I’d appreciate if you call 911 and let them know – I love that little car.

This is the 2nd break in for us in three years. I know we keep getting told that crime is dropping, things are safer….but really? Kicking down the FRONT DOOR in the middle of the day?

I don’t even know anymore.”

Ed. Note: Last week we also heard about another burglar who stole a car.

49 Comment

  • We’re “told” crime is dropping, but doe it feel that way to you? Certainly doesn’t to me. This has been the worst year we’ve had in four years. The Mayor and Councilmember continue to try to sweep it under the rug and calm us with friendly community meetings. Meanwhile, crime continues unabated.

    • Clearly there has been an uptick recently, whether it is a spike or a long term trend is to be determined.
      As a lifetime resident let me assure you it is better. Our cars used to get broken into so often we left them unlocked and empty to avoid the expensive window replacements, no one ever stole them because they were manual transmissions. During my youth I was mugged 2-3 times, assaulted 2-3 times, home invaded 5+ times, oh and my folks moved from one bad now gentrified neighborhood to another after they heard a neighbor get murdered when I was 2 shortly after we had been home invaded.
      Long term crime stats are down considerably, short term they are up but are nowhere near the historic highs from the 90s. One could certainly argue that crime was so high that it being lower isn’t much to brag about.
      Even in hindsight experts can not agree on what caused crime to drop so significantly so I’m not sure it is reasonable to expect a “magic bullet” solution from politicians. You can’t really argue that they fixed it the first time it dropped dramatically so why count on them to fix it the 2nd time?
      I’m pretty sure our local politicians have acknowledged the recent spike while trying to ground it in reality for newer residents who have only been here for the historically low crime rates of the last couple years (I’m sure they have diminished it but unless they are actively trying to politicize something to push an agenda/get elected that is what politicians do). I recently joked that I’d like to get elected to office so I could publicly tell people to panic; shouldn’t politicians be trying to calm the populace? When has panic ever served a populace well?
      An aside, I can spot a flipped house instantly 9/10 times by the house numbers and front door style, I think organized burglars may do this as well and target those homes. I wonder if a larger number of burgled homes have house numbers like these: http://www.dwr.com/product/neutra-number-aluminum.do?adpos=1o2&creative=59137489959&device=c&matchtype=&network=g&gclid=CjwKEAjwv8iwBRC35-_e8aPqwCESJAB8khP9nvoYn2FBOLamCFnq8-ubVIdRqzVgwEGIsIGZrsa17RoCbVHw_wcB
      and front doors like this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Steves-Sons-36-in-x-80-in-Premium-Full-Lite-Primed-White-Fiberglass-Prehung-Front-Door-FGFL-PR-36-4RO/205540061

      • “I can spot a flipped house instantly 9/10 times by the house numbers and front door style” — In many neighborhoods, you wouldn’t even to look at those — just the fact the house has been painted (in a row of unpainted brick houses) would be a dead giveaway.

  • Security door; not pretty but effective.
    Hope you get the car back in one piece.

    • Security doors help but are not a panacea. Every unit in our condo building has very stout ones, and those are almost all within an outer door with a cipher lock. One of our neighbors still had one of their doors busted in this weekend, which clearly was done with heavy tools (think very large crow bars like firefighters have that are not inconspicuously carried around). I would assume these are well organized crews and not junkies smashing car windows.

      • sounds like your neighbor either is stashing cash or is dealing drugs… someone really wants what they have.

        • Yea, my first thought. Out of all the units why theirs.

        • Yeah… no. Unless their whole life is an HBO script-worthy front, friendly people who post pictures of their broken door/lock on the building listserv and go door-to-door to warn their neighbors are probably not hiding something like that.

    • Security doors are definitely a good deterrent but they are not perfect. A few years ago our back door security door was pried open with a crowbar. In the middle of the day. According to the officers who responded popping security doors is pretty easy if you have a strong crowbar and a couple of minutes.

      Security doors, deadbolts, chain locks, cameras, security alarms. And these criminals still seem to figure ways into people’s houses. Ugh.

  • I’m sorry to hear about this. I hope you get your car back soon.

    Who is saying crime is dropping? It’s definitely increasing.

  • Some of my friends had their places broken into during the middle of the day. Apparently some guys showed up with a uhaul and were wearing matching overalls. They just acted like a moving company – stole TVs, bikes, laptops but also made off with a nice leather sectional.

    • My brother was a UPS driver and caught some people robbing a house on his route like that.

    • This is what happened to our house when we were in the process of purchasing. Middle of the day, truck hauled away washer, dryer & oven (seriously). No other appliances in the house because it was unoccupied. Incredible.

      And they came in through the basement (breaking security door), so there goes that.

    • I saw some people who seemed to be attempting a similar heist near my house a while ago. When you have a group of about 7 people and a moving truck in an alley at 3 AM, I’m going to go ahead and say you’re probably up to no good.

  • A similar thing happened to me this summer, where thieves stole my car keys during a break-in and then stole the car. Luckily, they abandoned it about 3 weeks later in reasonably decent condition and I was able to get it back and have the locks changed. I also made the mistake of having my car keys in plain sight, now (in addition to always making sure to lock the security door) I keep the car keys tucked away in an inconspicuous drawer.

    There have been tons of break-ins in DC this summer, and in my experience the police do not make a ton of effort to find them, which I can’t imagine reduces the incentive to steal.

  • Yes, time to hide the car keys! Friends who live in Truxton had their home broken into last week. Jerks took the keys from the house and stole the car, in addition to lots of other possessions. Hide the car keys.

  • That area of Petworth on walk score is orange. Which means it is more prone to crime
    Also crime is dropping in my neighborhood, and it definitely feels that way, but I live in an entirely different area of the city. This entirely depends on where you live, and that has always been the case. It depends on whether your neighbors are vigilant against crime, rather than tolerant. It also depends on whether you have too much low income housing in your area.

    • OP here – I’m not sure what you’re basing your comment on, especially since as you say, you don’t live in the area.

      It was the middle of the day, sure, but yesterday was cold and nasty – no one was hanging out outdoors. I know my neighbors, we say hello to each other, we watch out for one another. There’s no low-income housing in my neighborhood – just a bunch of good people (some new, some been there for 50 years and everything in between). There are also just some assholes (in the neighborhood or from Maryland or Virginia) who have no respect for other people’s property.

      Get a security door. Get an alarm system. Harass the mayor and our council and MPD until they come up with a solution to this crap. But don’t just blame neighbors and poor people.

  • I’m sorry that this happened to you, and now twice.

    While I’m not particularly knowledgeable about things crime, here’s my take on what occurred:

    These were no run-of-the-mill burglars; there’s a element of professionalism here. Kicking in the door, scooping up the laptops and keys, and getting out, all within a minute or so. Someone was probably working as a lookout, while the other did the deed.

    It seems you have been carefully observed. Why you and not the neighbor to the left or right? The perps planned this, knowing they’d probably be able to bust your door without too much trouble. They knew what model of car you drove. And, more troublesome, they probably live in the neighborhood. They identified you as a potential mark because you seemed to have wealth, and because they believed they would succeed.

    Solutions? First, spend some funds on a good security door. If you don’t want the bars, then install a steel door frame with a quality door and long deadbolt. Do the same for the back door. Put bars on any windows in you deem vulnerable. At the same time, prepare a plan to get out in case of fire. For instance, have a second key to the security door lock available quick at hand if an emergency strikes.

    Also, you might consider investing in a quality safe (fire and security) that can be bolted to the floor in a closet. At the very least, keep your important documents and small valuables secure.

    On a more general level, try to take care that nothing of particular value can been seen through your windows. The preps who broke in probably peeked in earlier and saw the laptops. Perhaps the best step you can take is to be aware that you may be victimized and to notice where you might be vulnerable. Heck of way to live, but you’ll feel better being proactive, limiting the chance of another incident.

    Good luck with everything.

    • west_egg

      “They knew what model of car you drove.”
      Or it was parked in the driveway out back. Or it makes noise when you hit a button on the fob.

    • OP here – God, it’s a sad state of affairs where just about everything you said is perfectly reasonable. We’re upgrading the doors this week, we always close the blinds at night, got the alarm after the last break in. We don’t leave anything in the cars. It’s sad that our neighborhoods are in such bad condition that you have to live like this.

      More likely? Moving. Either local (suburbs) or out of the area, not sure yet, but we’re done with Petworth. The up and coming, exciting neighborhood we moved to 4.5 years ago just isn’t up and coming fast enough. Too much of the crap element is still here. Too many shootings. Too many robberies. Too many drunks at the corner stores. We’re just done.

      15 years in DC, never thought I’d say that.

      • Sadly I agree with you. I had a nice 8 year run in the district, but it seems like things have plateaued (or gotten worse) and not getting any better, and there is no real desire to make it better. The political will is afraid to take any more action on crime, other than words. I barely even notice police, and never see them doing anything other than hanging out.

        It seems like the victims are just supposed to adjust to the crime filled reality and deal with it. No thanks.

    • +1 to “On a more general level, try to take care that nothing of particular value can been seen through your windows.” This was a key point in the crime prevention training I went to at the Fourth District a few months ago.

  • Security Door, window bars, yard dog, and don’t leave anything visible from windows–keys, purses, etc.

    • i hope you are not actually recommending that someone get a dog and leave it unattended in the yard. unattended dogs are often stolen for terrible, awful purposes.

  • west_egg

    This is why I bring my keys to work with me. And I feel like an idiot every time. (“I’m paying *how much* to live in this neighborhood–and yet I’ve got to bring my car keys with me on the Metro so I don’t have to worry about someone kicking in my door and stealing my car??”)

    • This has been sadly instructive. And paranoid inducing, as I metroed instead of drove today and all I can think about is the car parked in the driveway with the keys on the counter. Argh. Definitely going to change where I leave them, or start taking them like you do, even when not in use.

    • I’ve always carried my car keys with me to work or elsewhere. Not for fear of breakins; just never thought to detach them from my ring. Seems like I’m in the minority on this one.

  • I’m really sorry that happened to you all. I’m assuming you’re in the market for a new door. I would highly recommend Master Seal: http://mastersealonline.com/. After a spike in violent crime in my neighborhood two years ago, I had these guys install a new metal front door plus a security door (bars), and it was one of the best investments I have made for my house. It is super secure and makes me feel a lot safer.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Thanks for the rec. Just out of curiosity if you don’t mind saying: how much did this cost? (I realize it will vary depending on door size and design, but it’ll give me a some idea). I’m planning to replace my front and back door in the next couple years and am doing a little research.

  • That’s what they did to my place last year – kicked in the front door at 1:00 in the afternoon. My second break in in three years as well, but first was at a different location. Glad your dog was okay.

  • A tip I wanted to share. I keep my laptop/tablets on one of my dining chair seats(on the side of the table furthest from the walk way) when I’m not using them. Unless the thieves decided to pull out the dining chairs from the table, I’m thinking that’d be the last place for them to look. Fingers crossed in the event I’m ever burglarized. I don’t have security gates or bars, but I do have an alarm.

  • This is what urban living is worth to you? See you all in Virginia…

    • Since I’ve moved to DC I’ve lost very close friends to homicide, school shootings, kidnappings… and that’s all in my small hometown in the middle of Amish country. I feel safe in DC.

  • During the week the pope was here I replaced doors for 2 people (New Hampshire and another on 8th), BOTH daytime break-ins, both with alarms, both rehabbed houses of course. I am pretty convinced it is almost all the same crew and unfortunately they seem to know what they are doing!

    • Glen – can you provide your email/contact (if you dont mind) – i am actually looking to replace some doors.

      • In case Glen doesn’t see this, here’s his info: glen at harmonyremodeling dot net
        He’s done work for us and lots of others around the neighborhood–will vouch for his work, as will others.

  • This happened close to my place; I really hate it when these stories strike too close to home. Sometimes it feels like this city is getting out of control. 🙁

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