It has even happened to Fairfax County's Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.
When coming home late from a hockey game one evening, Herrity took his dog out for a walk and left his garage door open. In the minutes it took him to walk up the street, he noticed three teenagers sneak into his garage, leaving their car parked outside Herrity’s home.
The teens were looking for beer in the fridge in Herrity’s garage.
“They’ll go in and they aren’t there to steal stuff, they’re there to get the beer,” Herrity said. “I called the police. I had their keys and my dog.”
Herrity gave this anecdote of his brush with crime at Clifton’s crime prevention meeting Thursday evening in Clifton's town meeting hall on Chapel Road. Members of the community organized the meeting after noticing an uptick in car break-ins and vandalism in the community.
Herrity attended the meeting to speak to residents, while Fairfax County Police Department Officer Brett Katinsky fielded questions from residents on how to best protect their homes.
One resident, Don Byrne, complained of a similar incident to Herrity’s, where someone had stolen Guinness beers from his garage.
“I was very upset that the beer was missing,” Byrne said. “They sat on our front yard, drank three or four, took the empties, but left the rest there."
Other residents reported seeing cell phones, GPS devices, and laptops stolen from cars. There were also puzzling cases of vandalism, like flowers yanked from their beds. Cash was taken from a donation box a the Clifton Presbyterian Church.
“It’s just a meanness,” said Clifton town council member Deb Dillard.
Cases of breaking into homes are less common in Clifton, but they do tend to rattle homeowners.
“It’s the invasion of your space,” Katinsky said.
The officer offered several suggestions for residents:
- Keep vehicles locked. “It’s a crime of opportunity,” Katinsky said. “We’ve caught kids from very wealthy neighborhoods out breaking into cars and the reason they are doing it is because it was exciting to them.”
- As consistently as possible, close your garage door at night.
- If you see something suspicious, call it in. “If you see a car parked there and you suspect they are up to no good, you can always call and check it out,” Katinsky said, adding that neighbors should not confront a person, but instead call police.
- Keep the exterior of your home adequately lit with motion detecting lights.
“People let their guard down,” Katinsky said. “Just because you live in a safe neighborhood doesn’t mean you should.”
Byrne, the Clifton resident, said that the meeting was reassuring.
"It's great to know we have a resource we can talk to," Byrne said.
To get in touch with Katinsky, you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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