It’s Time For a “friendly reminder to not leave ANYTHING of value exposed in your vehicle” even for a few minutes


“Dear PoPville,

Near the corner of Kansas Ave and Shepherd: My friend’s car was broken into Sunday night between 12:45-1:15 am as he was walking me to my door. Window smashed and contents stolen out of the car… Just a friendly neighbor reminder to not leave ANYTHING of value exposed in your vehicle, and make sure your car insurance covers such happenings.”

18 Comment

  • Even empty bags can LOOK like something valuable to a thief who has nothing to lose by smashing your windows. I have heard so many times, “There was nothing in the bag.” A thief doesn’t know there’s nothing in it until after he’s smashed and grabbed. If you park on the street, or any unsecured location, it’s best to leave your car completely empty.

    • As a police officer here in DC, I take at least a minimum 4-5 reports a week for theft from autos. My suggestion and what I tell victims from theft from autos is to take all valuables with you. If you have a trunk, put the items in the trunk, it takes less then 10 seconds to do. Thieves usually break into vehicles within 20 secs and flee on foot or by bike.

      • Yep. Everything goes in the trunk. All that should be visible are the car seats. Not CDs, a hat, an umbrella, a bag of chips. Nothing.

        • Generally I try to keep my spare umbrella under the passenger seat (to risk any temptation of someone breaking in if they’ve been caught umbrella-less in the rain), but I think an umbrella and a bag of chips (preferably opened or empty) probably _could_ safely be left visible in a car.

      • It should go without saying that you should not put things in your trunk and then walk away from your care. If you are going to put something in your trunk, don’t wait until after you park to do it. Otherwise, you are inviting someone to break into your trunk to steal whatever they just saw you put in there. I once had to repair a trunk lock because someone broke into it to get something I placed in there after I parked.

    • +1 to DC Resident. Anything that looks like it _could_ contain something of value — backpack, gym bag, Target bag — shouldn’t be left visible.

  • This happen so often everywhere in the district but no one ever seems to be caught or prosecuted. I am wondering, do the police ever set up a sting against car vandalism? It would seem like a pretty easy task. Find a street near where it is a frequent problem, plant a car with some valuables and watch it for a few hours from an unmarked car with a camera. When someone smashes the window you immediately arrest and make an example of them. This is a great way to utilize the “Broken Window” theory. The arrests made may not be significant but you are probably catching a habitual criminal. DC Metro performs sting operations against prostitution and bike thieves, why not for automobile vandalism? Anyone ever heard of it happening?

    • Surprisingly, it does happen (at least once!). I never leave anything in my car – not even an empty coffee cup – but my car was broken into last year on a Friday night, along with the car behind me. When I found my car the next morning, I was told by some residents that they had seen someone being arrested very early in the morning outside of my car – and in fact, have received several letters updating me on the status of the man who broke into my car – he pled guilty and is serving time right now.

      Now, whether it was just extreme luck or extra vigilance by the cops, I’m not sure. My car was parked in Adams Morgan, under a lamp post, but in a remote area that wouldn’t get foot traffic at night (by the Zoo).

    • SilverSpringGal

      So…plant a car to get several thousands worth of damage to ‘evidence’ in order to catch some small-time crooks that won’t even serve time?

      • What kind of car do you own that costs ‘several thousand dollars’ to replace a broken window? It cost me around $300 to fix the busted window in my BMW a few years back (parked at 14th/Kenyon).
        This is seriously an epidemic in DC. I lived in CoHi for 3 years and saw new piles of broken glass on the sidewalk almost daily. Crazy that the only thing police can tell us is “don’t leave stuff in your car”.

      • SilverSpringGal – Car windows usually don’t cost several thousand dollar, but even a few hundred dollars in damage and the theft of something valuable like a smartphone could constitute a felony. (Plus, fines can be levied against the perpetrator for damages far in excess of the cost of the window). Additionally, those who are subjects of sting operations are usually given stiffer penalties because there is an intractable problem that law enforcement and prosecutors have identified and want to discourage. Being caught red handed during a sting generally leads to swift prosecution because, if done correctly, the sting records sufficient evidence for a conviction. Even catching a few criminals and publicizing it might set an example and discourage a future offender.

  • Clarification on insurance: Almost universally, even if you carry comprehensive coverage, your car insurance does not cover items stolen from inside a car unless they’re part of the car itself. Those things are (or should be) covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. So for instance, if your window is smashed and your laptop and car stereo are stolen, the auto policy covers the window and the stereo, while the laptop is a renter’s claim.

    • and if you make a homeowners claim about something like this, you may well wind up uninsurable. Best to take the loss and move on.

  • He spent 30 minutes “walking you to the door”? Sounds like more than a friend. 😉 Sorry to hear that happened to him though.

  • This does not just happen on the street. Last fall some crazed guy broke in through my car window while it was parked in my off-street spot on the alley. Car had nothing of value in it, but the police told me the many empty shopping bags and miscellany in there made it look like it MIGHT have something. Thief made off with my swimsuit bag, leaving the towel behind. I dunno, maybe he was low on shampoo? Since then the interior of the car remains bare at all times.

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