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“dear lexus owner from NC, i swear DC isn’t as horrible as you may be feeling it is right now!”

by Prince Of Petworth April 11, 2016 at 2:15 pm 50 Comments

car smash

Puts that warning we saw at 11th and Kenyon St, NW in perspective.

“Dear PoPville,

i was walking north on 11th (between w and florida) around 3pm when i spotted luggage littered on the sidewalk. as i walked farther up the street, i could hear fresh car glass crackling. a white lexus suv with north carolina tags had just been broken into. the car was filled with luggage and it had been strewn throughout the sidewalk. the mpd was contacted and i didn’t stay on site to talk to them because it wasn’t my car and i’d given them all the information i knew. i couldn’t stop thinking about the car owner especially because they were from out of town. it seems like car break ins continue to happen whether there’s something visible to take or not. dear lexus owner from NC, i swear DC isn’t as horrible as you may be feeling it is right now!”

  • SilverSpringGal

    *swears* Remind me to have someone standing next to my parent’s car when they help me move in the fall.

    • 18th Street

      … and not the random guy who walks up and offers to watch all your stuff for $20

    • Shawnnnnnn

      It doesn’t matter. My car has DC plates and had nothing in it and was still broken into. The only thing taken was about sixty cents in the change dish.

      When there are no consequences for actions, then no one has to weigh whether the risk of getting caught is worth the effort to maybe find something in a car to steal. The only cost is the energy to break the window. Well, for the criminal. For me, it was a grand to have it fixed.

      • SilverSpringGal

        By someone I meant a family member who never leaves the car’s side until we’re done and they’re headed back to the hotel with underground parking. Random strangers can GTFO.

      • anon

        Nothing visible at all — no bags, blankets, or piles of miscellaneous stuff?

        • Shawnnnnnn

          Literally nothing. It’s a new car and I haven’t had time to really put anything in it. And they couldn’t even see sixty cents they took from the change dish from the window. They rifled through the glovebox and that’s it. I feel like I’d have been less annoyed had they actually taken something because then it would have seemed “worth” it. As it is, I just shelled out a grand and no one got anything for it.

        • z

          same here. My convertible top was knifed by a bunch of jackasses trying to steal change.

          And no, the change wasn’t visible. In fact, NOTHING was visible. I mean, no bags, no cords, no electronics. NOTHING. When I spoke to my insurance agent, he wasn’t at all surprised. He said it wasn’t uncommon for cars to get broken into by thugs wanting to see if there was change somewhere in there.

          This is in Mt Pleasant btw.

      • When I lived in Adams Morgan (3 years) and then near Dupont Circle (7 years) my car–older, crappy-looking Honda Accord–absolutely nothing in it, visible or otherwise, after the very first break-in during my first year here (when they got some pocket change and a portable shaver)–was broken into every two years. That was the 1990’s so maybe things have changed since then. After moving to Mt. Pleasant, that car and the (older, used) Honda Civic that replaced it were never once broken into. Even better, I’ve had numerous out-of-town guests park on the street over the years, and none of them have been broken into either.

        • Matt

          Got a 2001 Honda Accord, keep absolutely nothing of value visible in the car (I don’t even leave spare change or an empty coffee cup in there when I leave), and it was broken into in Adams Morgan on a Friday night. The thief got away with my snow shovel and jumper cables I keep in the back, and apparently got ticked off I’m not stupid and proceeded to smash my windshield in addition to the passenger window they used to break in. This was December of last year. So, not much has changed.

      • DCer

        This is why we leave our car unlocked. To prevent costly broken windows (and once a cut convertible top!). Used to have to replace a window every couple of years, but no issues since. We know the car is rifled through fairly frequently, but no damage!

        • SydneyP

          The New Yorker did a story on this years ago. Best way to keep your car from being broken into? Have a homeless person live in it.

      • Anonymous

        A grand? Dang, what did they break? I had mine broken into this weekend in the area, and it only cost $150 to fix.

        • Timebomb

          I usually get it done for $175. I assume they wanted OEM parts and stuff since it was a brand new car. And are probably exaggerating just a little from there.

  • anonymous

    Sure it is just that terrible, if you’ve just driven in from out of town and had your car broken into and your luggage rifled for valuables Why would you even try to suggest otherwise? (This happens in cities, it isn’t just DC.)

    • NotDMX


      Right. Leaving bags in a car (no matter what is inside) happens to be an open invitation for theft. I live nearby, and I always hide the following:
      Loose change
      iPhone recharge cable (even if the phone is gone)
      Grocery bags
      Any paperwork, as someone could interpret it as valuable financial data/identity theft opportunity.

      • AmyM

        +100 more. When I lived in the Logan/Shaw borderlands I had a fenced in parking area around the back of the house, and I still stripped my car (which has near-blackout tint on the windows, so you can’t even see inside) down to the gearshift when I parked it. Not even an inkpen, not even once. Our block fell victim to multiple fence-jumpings, which led to multiple bike, package, and other property thefts. It’s not fair, but it does happen, and I always warn guests to clear things out and send up a prayer before they walk away from their cars. I consider myself lucky that no one ever put their elbow through my window, just to check.

        • Angry Parakeet

          I remember a girlfriend asking if she could stay with me (Park View) as she travelled from Maine to Manassas. She arrived with a Jeep SUV packed with bike, computer, etc. What a target. Fortunately I was able to rustle up some garage space for her.. She would have been doomed.

  • Philippe Lecheval

    A lot of the recent upscale development seems to give some people a false sense of security, especially when they’re unaware that it might be a dramatically different world just a block away.

  • 18th Street

    When it comes to criminal victimizing people without facing any consequences, DC is absolutely as bad as people expect it to be.

  • BeenThereDoneThat

    When I moved to DC 4 years ago, I was living in Columbia Heights and had brought my car with me. One night – about 3 months after moving to DC – while my car was outback of my house, it was broken into. The only thing they took was my Garmin, but the police officer said that the reason why my car was most likely broken into was because it was an out of state license plate. The officer said they target out of state cars because they assume (at least at that point in time) more is left in the cars and that there’ll be a gps in the car, which apparently has a decent black market rate. Crappy situation for that NC driver, but it happens to the best of us who live in large urban cities – happens not just in DC but elsewhere.

  • Common Sense

    Out of state license plates are targets for thief’s on the weekends. Most of the one’s I know of happen in Georgetown or Capitol Hill. Out of Towners, not knowing any better, usually leave things all over their car. This is exactly what the thief’s are looking for because most locals know to hide everything from plain sight. Do not even leave a cell phone charger visible because they will smash your window just to take it.

    • Anonymous

      Good reason for the out-of-state scofflaws to register their vehicle in DC!

      • 8th Street SE

        I think being out of state makes you a target no matter where you are. I know someone who had the hood stolen off his car while he was parked at his mom’s house in Vienna. And of course you’re more of a target for traffic police when you have out of state tags.

  • DRC

    Yes, yes it is that bad.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      Exactly. People who would prefer to act like it doesn’t exist are more likely to become victims themselves.

      • 8th Street SE

        I don’t think you can point to a single town in the entire country where a car hasn’t been broken into at some point. So no, we’re not denying that it happens here. What we are saying is that 99.9999% percent of cars that are parked on DC streets for a few days do not get broken into. That’s what I believe (and I’m sure it can be supported by the facts) and it hasn’t made me a victim yet.

        • DRC

          My car was broken into in Columbia Heights before I even moved into DC, back window shattered. I think that was maybe the 3rd or 4th time I left my car in the city overnight. Ended up living there for 3 years, in which my cars were safe because they were in an underground garage. Of course, I had two bikes stolen during that time, from a locked bike locker that was right next to my car, in the fob-access garage 3 floors underground. So yeah, in my experience, DC is that bad.

    • 8th Street SE

      No, it’s not.
      By my calculations my car has spent around 3,800 days parked on the mean streets of DC, and it’s never been broken into. As far as I know no vehicle on my street or any of the adjacent streets has been broken into in all the time I’ve lived there (we have a network of retired neighbors who are really on top of the hyperlocal crime and email us anytime something happens).
      Despite all the fearmongering the odds of a car getting broken into are very low, and the owner of this car was just incredibly unlucky. Let’s not act like this was normal or expected.

      • 8th Street SE

        Actually, I take that back– I just remembered my neighbors told me they had groceries stolen from their car once. But that was back in the 60’s or 70’s. And no windows were smashed– the thief just grabbed them out of the open trunk.

      • textdoc

        “Despite all the fearmongering the odds of a car getting broken into are very low” — I suspect the odds are perhaps higher in Columbia Heights than in Capitol Hill.
        For what it’s worth, I remember a friend who lived at the eastern edge of Adams Morgan saying circa 2001 that he never parked his car overnight east of 16th Street, because the three times he did, it had been broken into.
        Columbia Heights has come a LONG way from the no-go zone it was at that time. But it’s not surprising to me that car break-ins are frequent.

        • 8th Street SE

          Before moving to Capitol Hill I lived on the eastern edge of Adams Morgan (16th Street) and nothing ever happened to my car there either.

          • textdoc

            Like I said… in 2001, 16th Street was the dividing line between “safe to park” and “not safe to park.:”
            I street-parked in Adams Morgan from 2002 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2010, and my car was never broken into.

          • 8th Street SE

            Sorry, I’m not following. Are you saying our cars didn’t get broken into because we didn’t park east of 16th? Because I did, all the time. Sure, I preferred to park west of 16th because it was better lit and felt safer for walking around, but I usually didn’t get that lucky.
            Or are you saying things got better after 2001?

          • textdoc

            When did you live at the eastern edge of Adams Morgan?

          • textdoc

            But yeah, some of it seems to be luck. There’s no reason to break into a car that has nothing visible except the cushions (unless maybe you can see the suction-cup outline from a GPS unit on the windshield), but apparently it sometimes happens anyway.

          • textdoc

            If you lived at the eastern edge of Adams Morgan in, say, 2008, Columbia Heights was a VERY different ballgame than it was in 2001.

      • Duponter

        Counterpoint: I purchased a car, which sat on the streets for approximately 38 days and was then broken into. As were five other cars on my block. On a well lit street sitting right beside a building with security cameras.

        It’s the third car I’ve had in 15 years that has been broken into in DC. I’d say you’re probably just really lucky.

        • Anonoline

          Seems like there are a few streets that are really popular with car thieves, and others that never get hit. 8th Street SE is a really busy street so maybe it’s too risky to try it there. Did they ever catch the guy with the footage from the cameras?

  • DC1

    Sucks! Proof that putting stuff in your trunk is never safe.

    • Anon Spock

      I’m guessing someone saw the luggage when they opened the trunk and broke in soon after they walked off.

      • textdoc

        An SUV doesn’t really have a “trunk” per se. It looks like the window for the hatch area was tinted… but unless the luggage-hider panel (I can’t remember its actual name) was drawn, a potential thief could see in through the window.
        Or even if the luggage-hider panel was drawn, a potential thief might’ve interpreted it as an indication that there was something worth hiding underneath the panel.

      • Anon Spock

        Semantics aside my point was people can very easily case your vehicle so even if you’re putting things out of plain view they’ll know it’s there.

  • Ally

    Back when I owned a car (good riddance!), mine was broken into outside my apartment in Dupont/U Street back in the 90s. The only thing I left in the back was a bag filled with trash. The person smashed my side window and cut themselves pretty badly when trying to reach in to unlock the door. I came out to find blood streaming down my car. Still hard to get too mad about it since the perp clearly got the worse end of that deal.

  • Rich

    Considering NC’s recent legislation, we have nothing for which to apologize. As for stuff getting knicked from cars, esp. with out of town plates, it happens in just about every big city and it happens with stuff big and small.

    • 8th Street SE

      For all you know they could be a victim of their state’s legislation as well as a car break-in, poor thing.

      • textdoc

        +1. It’s ridiculous to hold North Carolina’s ridiculous new law against all of its inhabitants. I know plenty of people who live in NC who are upset about the new law.

        • AMDCer

          And maybe it was someone hightailing it out of NC to avoid persecution under said laws!

  • victoria

    Maybe be kind and pick up their stuff? Look through it and try to find a contact? Or at least post here? Or with the police? Seriously – this is the most depressing post!

    You saw someone’s belongings stolen and strewn all over the street. You could help make the shit better and you chose not to. Shame on you.

    • Anonymous

      I so agree. I’ve found stolen bags thrown in my alley twice. Was able to find identifying information both times, and folks were happy to at least get back what they got back. At least OP determined the police were called, but still. Ya could gather the stuff up so it isn’t lost/ruined in the street and knock on a couple neighboring doors. Even if you don’t find the owner, they may have an email listserv that can be notified.

  • Victim

    I feel some obligation to comment, given that this was my in-law’s car. We recently moved out of this neighborhood, and we were back in town for a family wedding. We were stopping by a friend’s place for an hour, and we didn’t take our luggage in because it was contained in the trunk of the SUV, it couldn’t be seen through the tinted windows, it was a busy street, and it was the middle of the day. Thankfully for us, the fact that it was a busy street actually saved us from being robbed of all our stuff, since it appears that the thief ran away without taking anything once bystanders reacted to his crime. Nonetheless, we obviously in hindsight shouldn’t have left anything in the car, and my in-laws were out their car insurance deductible as a result. But I would disagree that this was an instance of naive out-of-towners not knowing the neighborhood – having lived down the block for several years, we know it all too well. While it’s a great neighborhood, it has one serious problem.

    I think the takeaway from this crime should be exactly what our police officer immediately identified – this was clearly the work of residents of Garfield Terrace, specifically the non-senior townhouses in Garfield Terrace. Last year, we were robbed of our iPhone, and it was later turned on in Garfield Terrace, though the police refused to seek a warrant for the residence where it was turned on – evidently magistrates in DC typically turned down such requests even though the probable cause standard should pretty clearly indicate that stolen property with GPS tracking is a pretty clear indication that there is criminal activity afoot.

    I find it utterly baffling that the non-senior portion of Garfield Terrace continues to menace the neighborhood. We all know that this is the source of crime in the neighborhood. Many of us have been victims of the residents of these units. The police will quickly tell you that Garfield Terrace is the source of these crimes. I recognize the weary cynicism of a lot of the comments here, but in why on earth are we tolerating a relatively small set of folks who are terrorizing the neighborhood? What exactly are we waiting to happen? How bad does it have to get until we recognize that Garfield Terrace’s concentrated poverty isn’t just antiquated urban planning, but it’s a clear and present danger to its neighbors? And where is any D.C. elected official on this?

    As a former resident, I suppose that I don’t have as much skin in the game as my former neighbors, but I’m just baffled that we accept as normal a world where everyone, including the police, just accept the fact that a relatively small set of non-senior residents at Garfield Terrace harass their neighbors at will, and whenever there is a crime such as this, everyone, including the police, blame the victim for not being city-smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t do things like park on a busy street in broad daylight for a short time. Not only is this going to keep happening, but the crimes are going to get worse until action is taken on the problem that everyone acknowledges yet no one does a damn thing about.


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