“Please tell people to lock their doors, especially if they live in a group home and have roommates with varying schedules.”

by Prince Of Petworth May 4, 2016 at 10:50 am 41 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Kevin Wolf

“Dear PoPville,

I was upstairs in my room last night on the third floor of my Logan Circle townhouse, which I share with 3 other people, when a homeless man walked in. I left the door unlocked because my roommate couldn’t find her key and was planning to come home shortly. When my roommate came home, she went upstairs to the third floor and saw a homeless man, African American and middle aged, with a hoody, hiding behind a bookshelf. We hid in my room and called the cops who promptly came. The guy had walked out before the cops got there though so he’s still on the loose.

Please tell people to lock their doors, especially if they live in a group home and have roommates with varying schedules. Thankfully the guy didn’t take anything or attack me, but it could’ve been a very bad situation.”

  • nightborn

    For real? Is… not locking doors while living in the city a thing?

    Next OP will be warning us to lock our cars, too.

    • DupontDC

      You’d be surprised. My former roommate in SW used to always leave the door unlocked.

    • K

      I had a roommate who regularly left the door unlocked. His theory, “We’re home so who cares.” Meanwhile he was always locked away in his room upstairs. It is a thing. A really annoying thing.

      • Caroline

        That’s one of the reasons I don’t live with roommates anymore– I happen to like having the doors locked and too many people consider it optional.

    • DC_Chica

      I have lived with (and in the same building as) people who thought it was fine to leave doors unlocked and in some cases leave the front door WIDE OPEN for long periods of time (when I lived Mt. Pleasant – they left the door open for their indoor/outdoor cat, I’m not kidding). It is sadly very much a thing that people need to be advised to do.

  • FridayGirl

    I appreciate the OPs reminder, but haven’t we been through this before? I distinctly remember someone was robbed when they left their front door unlocked and were out in their backyard, and another time when people were saying that their roommates forget to lock the door.
    Even if you live in an apartment complex with FOB’d doors/elevators/etc., lock the doors! There is no good reason to risk it. If someone gets locked out they can knock or call.

    • skj84

      The only time I leave the door unlocked is when I pop out to grab mail. And i’m on the front porch and can see who’s coming. Other than that, locked at all times. Home invasion is one of my worst nightmares. When my former roommate moved out she not only left the backdoor unlocked, but PROPPED OPEN while she made a run to her new abode. It took me at least 15-20 minutes to discover she had left without closing the door. I was furious, it doesn’t matter if you’re only gone a minute, anything can happen in that time.

  • Anon Spock

    Why didn’t the roomie just call when she was outside to be let into the home?
    I’m assuming op is new to the city maybe from a small town where this scenario may work out better.

    • Traveler

      Or knock on the door…

  • Anonymous

    Buy a lockbox and keep a spare set of keys in it. $15-20 on Amazon. It will solve SO MANY lockout problems.

    • transplanted

      Plus we don’t have to give out spare sets to nearby “in case of emergency” friends, house cleaners, etc. It’s so freaking convenient!

    • CS

      I also know a group house that has success using a coded door lock. There are also fancier systems that allow you to use a smart phone to get into a house (I think some airbnb owners use it). Or even if worse comes to worse, if a roommate doesn’t have their key, hide a key rather than leave the door unlocked. While still a risky scenario, not quite as bad as just leaving it unlocked.

    • Daniel
    • siz

      man, i can’t believe i never thought of this! i am ordering one as we speak!

  • Anon

    This happened to my roommates once in college (I was away). They called the cops, who walked through the house and said there was no one there, he must have run out the back. Then, as they were leaving, my roommate realizes that the homeless guy is hiding in her bed, under the covers!

    Anyway, if you have roommates who are base about locking the door, consider putting a lock on your bedroom door and keeping all your valuables in there. I did that and it saved my laptop at least once.

    • skj84

      Ahhh. That is the stuff of horror movies right there.

    • Pixie

      Holy crap that is scary.

  • hiphopanonymous

    When I was living in Bethesda, we never locked our door when we were home. One evening I was sitting in the living room watching TV when the front door opened and I saw a man walk in and head to the kitchen. At first I thought it was my roommate, but when I went around the corner there was a stranger standing in the kitchen. I told him in a very firm voice, “You need to leave,” but he wouldn’t move. He was also standing by the knife block, which made me nervous, and I started yelling, “Get the f**k out!”. Eventually he turned and just walked right out, never once making eye contact with me.

    Long story shorter, it turns out that he is the twenty-something y/o AUTISTIC son of a neighbor whom I had never met before, who has a tendency to wander. He did the same thing at least two more times before I moved out, but all I had to tell him was, “Aaron, go home.” and he left.

    But damn, that first time left me shaken up!

    • sbc

      As someone with an autistic cousin, all I can think about with your post is that the situation could have escalated in a way that the young man in your story, or the homeless guy in the OP’s post wound up dead. So even if people don’t care about their own possessions or their roommates, it’s a good idea to lock the door to prevent dangerous interactions with the police from needing to happen.

      • FridayGirl

        +1 to this.

      • eggs


  • oh2dc

    The obvious “lesson” of locking doors is noted. However, are would-be criminals just randomly checking front doors to see if they are locked? What are the chances this guy checked this exact door on a night where the household left it unlocked (which sounds somewhat atypical from the description)? I can see checking car doors as they are on the street and locks can be visible. Do people often hear their front door jiggle from people checking to see if it is unlocked?

    • C.M.

      yes they are! Happened to my neighbor–forgot to lock their door, woke up in the middle of the night to a guy going through their stuff. Cops said it is common for burglars to just walk around checking for an unlocked door.

    • Anonymous

      “Are would-be criminals just randomly checking front doors to see if they are locked?”

      Yes, believe it or not, that is a thing. It’s no more remarkable than someone walking up to a bike that’s chained to a post and pulling on the lock to see if it opens. It’s called a crime of opportunity.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I suspect that no individual person often has this happen to them, but that criminals use this tactic often enough that it will happen to an individual person a couple times over the course of living here for several years. I have been at home and heard somebody try the door exactly once. It may have happened other times when I did not hear it or was not home, too, I don’t and can’t know that. I’m glad I had my door locked the one time when I did hear somebody try the door, though.

    • textdoc

      I vaguely remember a PoPville post where someone mentioned having seen some teens doing exactly that. (Maybe in Mount Pleasant?)

      • FridayGirl

        That was the post I mentioned above about the resident leaving their door unlocked while they were out in the backyard BBQing or something.

        • textdoc

          I thought I remembered a separate posting on the issue. Maybe the OP was the one whose house was broken into and the posting I’m thinking of was from a neighbor mentioning they’d seen someone trying doors?
          Anyway, the point stands: Yes, some people really do go around trying doors to see if they’re unlocked.

    • Caroline

      I’ve always wondered this. My MIL occasionally forgets to lock her door overnight, maybe a few times a year, and uses this as evidence that her neighborhood is very safe. It’s in NoVA so it probably is very safe, but honestly, I doubt people regularly go around testing doorknobs in even the roughest of neighborhoods.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Having done something a few times and not suffered any negative consequences is a good way to fool one’s self into believing that the behavior in question, almost regardless of what it is, is “very safe.”

        • Caroline

          Well, at least she’s not using it as an excuse to keep her door unlocked! I mean, by that logic I could say I’ve never had the hood stolen off my car (happened to someone that was visiting her) so my neighborhood’s actually safer.

    • K

      Yes, I hear someone try to open my always-locked front door about once a year. So it probably happens even more that I don’t hear or when I’m not at home.

    • JohnH

      The other day, my doormat and grill cover were both uncovered on my back patio. Someone obviously looking for a spare key….

    • DC_Chica

      Right after I moved to Mt P (2009ish) a young woman was sexually assaulted in her home when she accidentally left the door to her place unlocked (I think it might have been a basement apartment) and went to sleep. I remember feeling very creeped out that there was someone in my neighborhood looking for unlocked doors and assaulting women in their sleep.

      • HaileUnlikely

        There is somebody who posts on here regularly but hasn’t for the past couple of days who was robbed at gunpoint in his own bed.

  • Prepared

    Yes, bad guys do in fact just go around trying doors, and looking at open windows to try and find easy access. Probably more common in apt. buildings, but houses are often easy picking. Most are probably harmless petty thieves – knowing that even if caught there will be no consequences, but I wouldn’t want to have to decide that in a few seconds of confrontation.

    I have a gun. I would never shoot someone that was clearly burgling my house. But if I wake up and see a stranger in my house, I’m not going to assess his motives. I am going to kill him. (No one should own a gun unless they are fully prepared to do this.)

  • Anon

    A couple of years ago, I was visiting friends in a small ski town out west. I knew they wouldn’t be home when I got there and I know where they hide their key so I just expected to let myself in. When I got there, the key wasn’t in the usual place, but I tried the door and it was unlocked so I proceeded to bring all my stuff in from the car. Then I turned on the lights and noticed everything looked different than I remembered. It turned out I was in the wrong house! I had gone to one two doors down that looks exactly the same. Anyway, I quickly grabbed all my stuff and took it to the right house and the key was just where it should be. When they got home, I asked how well they knew their neighbors two doors down and told them the story. I was so embarrassed at the time, but now can laugh about it.

    • Caroline

      I just watched the movie That’s Not Us (on Netflix, highly recommend) and (spoiler) the same thing happens to them at the beach. Hilarious!

  • Aglets

    Maybe this is too obvious, but tell yourself to lock your door, knuckles…

  • SilverSpringGal

    You live in a city. This is common sense.

  • Longfellow

    Once when I was living in a high rise I got off the elevator, went down to the end of the hall, and opened the door (my roommates often left it unlocked). Took a few steps in, random woman sitting on the couch looking at me in shock. Except it wasn’t our couch. I had gotten off on the wrong floor. I was in the apartment directly beneath ours. I apologized and left.

    Lock your doors.


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