A burglary crime wave in Mount Pleasant
Mount Pleasant is a high-income
neighborhood close by to low-income neighborhoods, and that makes our
neighborhood a tempting target for thieves and burglars. Automobile
break-ins are a plague. Recently burglaries have also become a problem.
While the rest of the District hyperventilates about a "crime emergency",
here in Mount Pleasant burglaries are up to five or six times the "normal"
These are not complete ransackings of homes, but are quick smash-and-grab incidents, taking a few obviously valuable items, such as laptop computers. Many Mount Pleasant residents work during the day, so our homes stand empty. Thieves prowl the neighborhood in search of homes with no one home and with an easy access point, commonly a back door or a rear window. They take what they can carry and quickly sell on the street.
The MPD now believe (August, 2006) that this burglary wave is due to a single person, a man who pretends to be an "apprentice electrician" as he goes about the neighborhood, breaking into homes and stealing what he can carry.
November update: the MPD put a tactical squad of plainclothes officers to work on this burglary problem, and, with five arrests, essentially put a stop to it. Some of those arrested are out on the street again, but they're warned that this neighborhood is under strict surveillance by officers who, being in plain clothers, are not identifiable as police. This has worked wonders.
People frequently say that they want to see more police patrolling their neighborhoods. This gives an illusion of safety, but is not nearly as effective for catching criminals, and stopping crime, as officers whom you cannot see, because they're indistinguishable from the rest of the public.
Bar chart of burglaries in Mount Pleasant, month by month, showing the enormous jump in the summer of 2006. Focused police action rapidly brought the number of burglaries per month down to "normal" levels.
I've pointed out elsewhere that
the great majority of robberies take place on the east side of Mount
Pleasant, between 16th and 17th Streets. The bands of youths who come
across from Columbia Heights don't go very far into our neighborhood
in search of victims.
Burglaries (and automobile break-ins) are not confined to the east side of the neighborhood. In fact, the farther west one goes, the easier it is to find an unoccupied home and no neighbors in sight. It's easier to break into an isolated home, even a row house, than into an apartment.
There's little that the police can do to prevent burglaries, which take place out of their sight. Burglaries are also rarely solved after the fact, the burglary closure rate being a pitiful 9%. It's pretty much up to us to make our homes secure.
Map showing approximate locations of burglaries in Mount Pleasant in 2006. In contrast to robberies, which are concentrated on the eastern edge of Mount Pleasant, burglaries happen almost anywhere.