Police give warning for valuables in cars
Bowser: Items left visible on seats tempting to thieves
D.C. officials are employing a new tactic to help prevent theft from vehicles: fake tickets.
Metropolitan Police will place warnings that look like pink parking citations on cars, vans and trucks to educate motorists about the potential for so-called “smash and grab” theft.
“[Police officers] will just walk down the street, they’ll peek in vehicles — like a wouldbe criminal might do — and see if we have any valuables in that car,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday during a police demonstration and press conference. “We’ll leave a friendly reminder. It looks like a ticket, but it’s not. And it will say to the resident, ‘Listen, this was the police this time, and we noticed some valuables in your car. It could be a would-be thief the next time.’”
Miss Bowser and officers of the 4th Police District walked through the 600 block of Emerson Street NW on Monday, leaving the warnings under windshield wipers on vehicles that had valuables in plain view or open windows.
Cmdr. Wil Manlapaz of the 4th District said the warnings have been used occasionally in the past.
The warnings read: “WARNING! Notice of Infraction. This is not an actual ticket, but hopefully it got your attention. The Metropolitan Police Department is ‘ticketing’ vehicles and homes in your neighborhood to try to raise awareness and to reduce the number of crimes of opportunity in this community. Please see the reverse side for tips and information on how to avoid becoming a victim of crime.”
The warnings come as part of a police campaign against property crime, which has fallen at a slower rate than violent crime.
According to Metropolitan Police statistics, violent crime in the District has declined 27 percent compared to this time last year, but property crime has fallen only 2 percent.
“While we are always vigilant about violent crime, we know that we still have a lot of work to do in reducing property crime in the District of Columbia,” Miss Bowser said.
Cmdr. Manlapaz said his 4th District won the department’s crime-reduction award last year because of its drop in violent crime, noting that property crime is falling as precipitously.
The 4th District had seen 339 violent crimes by this time last year, but has had only 246 this year — a 27 percent decline. Property crime figures, however, remain relatively unchanged, with 1,645 crimes last year and 1,643 so far this year.
“The one thing that’s driving our crime now is going to be those thefts and thefts from autos,” Cmdr. Manlapaz said.
Thefts from autos across the District are down 8 percent compared to this time last year, from 5,305 to 4,893. They also are down 9 percent in the 4th District, from 756 to 691.
Cmdr. Manlapaz said people should not leave anything in their cars, especially where would-be thieves can see them, and should lock doors and roll up windows.
“Don’t leave anything in your car, even if it’s something that you don’t believe is valuable,” he said. “If it’s a bag, most of those people don’t know what’s in that bag, and they’re still going to try to steal it.”
He said to be vigilant when going shopping or into a gas station.
“Even if you run in real quick, it only takes a few seconds to grab whatever’s in your car and take it,” the police commander said.
He said to call 911 if somebody is acting suspiciously by looking into cars or pulling on door handles while walking down the street.
Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Wil Manlapaz of the 4th Police District said violent crime in his district is down, but theft and thefts from autos is “driving our crime now.” Cmdr. Manlapaz joined Mayor Muriel Bowser at a “smash and grab” prevention event in Northwest Monday.
Ms. Bowser pointed out that valuables left visible in a parked car could tempt would-be thieves, and warned motorists to be more conscientious about leaving their items visible.