Map of vehicle theft series in North Arlington (courtesy ACPD)

Thieves are prowling Arlington neighborhoods north of I-66 at night, looking for easy theft targets, according to police.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, Arlington police said they’ve seen a rise in home and vehicle thefts that occur overnight when suspects find garage door openers in unlocked cars. The department said its started assigning additional officers to the area last week and arrested a group of suspects on the first night of deployment.

The police department is encouraging residents to lock their homes and vehicles, and to keep valuables out of view.

The full ACPD press release is below below.

The Arlington County Police Department is deploying increased police resources, to include both visible and non-visible assets, to address an increase in residential burglaries connected to larcenies from auto and resulting in auto thefts. Since February, police have investigated five reports of suspects entering garages through garage door openers found in unlocked vehicles or open garage doors and stealing vehicles from the property. In three of the cases, the suspects entered occupied residences connected to the garages, rummaged through items and stole personal property. Additionally, police have investigated two incidents where the suspect forced entry by smashing a window to the residence and stole a vehicle from the property. These incidents have occurred in residential neighborhoods north of I-66.

Arrest Made on First Night of Deployment of Additional Resources

At approximately 3:32 a.m. on June 4, an officer observed a group of suspects trying door handles of parked vehicles in the 1900 block of N. George Mason Drive. Upon seeing the officer, the group separated and ran from the area. The Emergency Communications Center then broadcast the report of a tampering in progress and officers began to saturate the area. Responding officers located a vehicle stopped in the 5000 block of Lee Highway attempting to pick up an unknown male who then fled once he saw police. The two occupants of the stopped vehicle were detained. As officers were conducting their investigation, a black Honda Civic drove past them at a high rate of speed, nearly striking their parked marked police vehicles with emergency lights activated. The unoccupied Civic, which was later determined to be stolen from Fairfax County, was located crashed near N. George Mason Drive and N. Florida Street. Officers continued to search the area and three additional suspects were located and detained. As a result of the criminal investigation by Detectives assigned to the Property Crimes Unit, one juvenile suspect was arrested and charged with Felony Eluding, Grand Larceny Auto and Conspiracy to Commit a Felony. The investigation into this incident is ongoing and charges are pending against three additional suspects.

Method of Theft

Larcenies from auto and vehicle thefts are often crimes of opportunity with suspects taking advantage of unsecured doors and windows to steal items left unattended or out in plain view. Based on surveillance video, witness accounts, interviews with victims and interviews with suspects apprehended in past cases, the evidence suggests that multiple suspects work together, often using a stolen vehicle, to travel into residential neighborhoods and try door handles of parked vehicles. The suspects will enter vehicles that are found to be unlocked, rummage through items and steal vehicles with accessible spare keys and fobs. In recent cases, suspects have also entered garages that have been left open or when a garage door opener is located inside an unlocked vehicle. Once inside the garage, suspects have entered occupied residences through unlocked doors and stolen personal property from the victims.

When and Where Thefts Occur

While recent cases tied to residential burglaries have occurred in neighborhoods north of I-66, larcenies from auto and vehicle thefts have been reported in nearly all neighborhoods across Arlington County, typically during the overnight and early morning hours and can occur on any day of the week. Suspects will often commit a series of larcenies from auto by targeting numerous vehicles at a time and steal those found with keys or fobs inside.

Take Action with these Crime Prevention Tips

No matter where you live, follow these crime prevention tips to help keep your property safe and secure.

Preventing Thefts from Auto and Motor Vehicle Theft

  • Close and lock all windows and doors when you park. Double click the lock button on the key fob to receive a confirmation beep/chirp or pull on the door handle to verify it’s locked.
  • Never leave valuables in your car in plain view. Take these items with you, or secure them–all the time, every time.
  • Do not leave your keys, key fobs, or valet keys in your vehicle. This includes keys to a secondary vehicle.
  • Take your garage door opener out of your vehicle when you park. If a thief can get into a vehicle, they can have access to a garage door opener and can gain access to your home.
  • Never leave the area while your vehicle is running.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is turned OFF when leaving it unattended. Vehicles with keyless ignition systems can be driven for extended periods of time even if the key fob is not inside the car. Be sure to read your owner’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with how to operate your vehicle’s keyless ignition system properly.
  • Keep information, such as the make, model, model year, license plate and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) easily accessible in the event your vehicle is stolen.

Preventing Residential Burglaries

  • Activate exterior lights at your home.
  • Keep your garage door closed and locked. Always ensure you garage door is closed overnight.
  • Install deadbolt locks on external doors. Engage both the knob and deadbolt lock.
  • Never hide spare keys around your property or in a vehicle. Instead, leave a spare key with someone you trust.
  • Consider installing effective home surveillance cameras. Be mindful that if a home surveillance system captures a larceny from auto in progress, they do not always provide the overwhelming evidence needed to prosecute a case.

Participate in the 9 PM Routine

The 9 P.M. Routine is a crime prevention campaign that encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure. Set a reminder and at 9 P.M. each evening, ensure the below tasks have been completed and encourage your friends and neighbors to do so as well.

  • Vehicles, residences, garages, windows, gates, sheds have been locked.
  • Exterior lights, security cameras, alarm systems have been activated.
  • Valuables from vehicles (including keys), yards, patios have been brought inside.

Public Education

The Department is deploying electronic signboards in various locations throughout the County as a high-visibility community reminder to lock vehicles and safeguard personal property. The signboards are part of a public awareness campaign and will be periodically moved to different neighborhoods to help spread important crime prevention messaging and encourage participation in the 9 P.M. Routine.

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