At GFCA's TownHall on June 9, Lieutenant Lance Schaible (Fairfax County Police Reston District Deputy Commander), and PFC Officer Laura Redman updated residents on recent burglaries in Great Falls and provided information on measures that can be taken to improve security.
There have been two distinct sets of burglaries since April (total of 6), including thefts from cars as well as houses, in the northwest area of the community near Seneca Road. The only armed incident occurred in Loudoun County at the end of Seneca.
The first series of burglaries (total of 3), which occurred between April 14 and May 3, were part of a well-organized crime ring based in Chicago. This ring, which Lt. Schaible referred to as the Polish Mafia, has been operating in many parts of the United States. Foreign nationals with legal work visas operating with the ring hire themselves at low wages to local landscaping firms and use their landscaping cover to case out well-to-do neighborhoods. Typically, they identify specific homes where the residents are gone during periods of the day and that have less physical security and no alarm system. Nighttime burglaries in general occur less frequently.
Sometimes the ring seeks out homes where garages or doors are left unlocked, and can enter a home when a resident is gardening or otherwise occupied outside. Jewelry, small valuables, cash and credit cards are typically taken rather than large or heavy goods. Entry in and out is quick; their objective is to not to be seen by the resident, neighbors, or those passing by the home. Stolen goods are sent first to Chicago and then shipped overseas.
The individuals who committed this first series of burglaries have been apprehended and are in the Fairfax County jail. An alert neighbor spotted a suspicious rental car that was then was traced back to the perpetrators at a local hotel where they were staying. Prosecution will take place in Fairfax; some of the stolen property has been recovered.
The second set of 3 incidents are still under investigation; only limited details could be shared. There were no forcible entries and one of the three burglaries occurred at night when the residents were at home. The suspected perpetrator(s) has/have been indentified and an arrest is anticipated. In addition, due to circumstances the police are confident that no further burglaries will be undertaken by this person or group.
While the Great Falls police service area (#500) has the lowest crime rate in Fairfax County, it is important that measures be taken by residents to ensure their own safety, i.e. deter, detect, delay and deny. Residents who have a security system should activate it when they leave the house and use it at night when they are home. Those who don’t have a system may wish to install one with a camera. Exterior doors, as well as the door between the house and garage, should be kept locked; the garage door should be closed not only when a resident leaves but also when working outside or retrieving mail. Keyed deadbolts with a 1” to 1.5” throw are also a good idea for doors. Exterior lighting around the perimeter and metal or solid wood doors are all deterrents. Bushes should be trimmed so they do not block a window. More prickly shrubbery, such as holly and rose bushes, will deter break-ins. Charley bars on downstairs windows and sliding glass doors can provide some additional security.
Residents should not leave a purse, wallet or keys near a door as burglars can quickly grab these items and flee. If feasible, a locked safe room should be set-up on every floor. An old cell phone, including the charger, as well as a spare house key should be kept there.
When leaving on vacation, it is recommended that lights be set on a timer. Residents may also want to have a low-volume talk radio show on a timer. Neighbors should be advised that the house will be vacant, and the local police station should be alerted. The security system, if one exists, should be activated and mail/newspapers should either be held or arrangements made for items to be picked-up on a daily basis.
As to vehicles, the police recommend never leaving valuables in your cars, nor anything ‘tempting’ in plain sight (such as tools). Always lock your vehicles – especially at night – and arm your alarm if you have one.
If property is stolen, it is it is in the resident’s interest to have a record that can be used to claim items that might be recovered. Records should include a complete description of the item, photos, serial numbers, and purchase receipts (if available). Those who are concerned about the possible loss of more expensive items (or items with sentimental value) may wish to engrave these.
Residents should report all crimes to the police no matter how small, as this is one of several factors that are considered by the county when determining whether additional funds are needed for assigning more officers to the district.
In the end, using common sense to secure your property and valuables, ensuring you routinely use your security systems, being on the alert for suspicious persons or vehicles and keeping a record or reporting them to the police, and working with your neighbors will make your home and neighborhood much less likely to be a target of burglars.