I had a pretty late night out on Friday night at a great new find of a club called Five. A DJ with the unspectacular moniker "Dave Ralph" played a great set that had us going till about 5am.
So this meant that I was at home having a nap early on Saturday evening when my spidey senses woke me up around 8.30pm. At first I sleepily thought that it was some of the neighbourhood kids yipping and yahooing about in the street. However I realised that it was a bit dark for them to be out, and it sounded a little more serious than kids too. So I poked my head out of my 3rd floor bedroom window. This window is on the left hand side of the house and looks across to the neighbour's house on the street corner and some of the perpendicular street behind it as well, as well as affording a view of some of the service alleyway that runs behind our row of houses.
There's a police car pulled up in the middle of that perpendicular street with a female officer out with her gun drawn pointing down the alleyway behind the house. She's screaming at someone I can't see to raise his hands, lie down and prepare to be handcuffed. This then apparently takes place though its a bit dark to see when she moves away from the lighted street.
I headed downstairs to ask my housemates what the .... was going on but they were watching TV and hadn't heard any of this. They had however heard what they thought was a recycling bin being tipped over, or maybe some breaking glass, about 15 minutes earlier, but hadn't given it much thought.
In the time it takes us to have this conversation there are now four police cars with lights furiously flashing in the street surrounding the block, plus the first car, and another dives into the alleyway and parks behind our garage. Housemate Hannah's boyfriend Dan wanders out the front door to ask what's going on:
"What's going on?"
"Did you place a call to 911?"
"THEN CLEAR THE AREA SIR!"
So Dan scurries back in and now we're double locking the doors, turning all the interior lights off and the external lights on and peering out from the edges of the windows upstairs. From a rear window in the stairwell we can hear the police radio in the squad car in the back alley so we're trying to listen in to figure out what's going on.
Unfortunately before we can hear anything useful the radio is drowned out by the arrival of a police helicopter which is now making a tight circle directly 200ft overhead, stabbing its searchlight into our yard. I remember noticing that the house's shadow was going through sunup to sundown about every 10 seconds as the helicopter made its circuits above. Housemate Andrea calls the local Fox station (whose studio is about 4 blocks down the street) but they don't have a clue what's going on over theirs and our heads either. I contemplate either cowering in the basement or piling into the bathtub upstairs as the most bullet-resistant strategy to see out this bout of apoplexy.
Man, at least in Bougainville we had a trunk full of helmets and kevlar armour for stuff like this.
So mostly we just stick our heads out corners of the upstairs windows and gawk...
Well after about 20 minutes of this the chopper started making wider sweeps around the surrounding blocks and the police cars surrounding the block went from six to four and eventually two. About half an hour later we saw a policeman searching through the hedges in front of our house and this time we are able to ask what was going on. (We also pieced some of this together from speaking to neighbours the following day).
It seems that the Metropolitan Police Department in Ward 3 (the relatively wealthy upper northwest of DC) get VERY, VERY EXCITED when they get a "BIP" (Burglary In Progress) radio call. I guess they've got to do something because a big majority of the one-a-day murders happen in the NE and SE quadrants, (ie anywhere from three to ten miles away). The massive response after
the first guy was arrested was because they suspected there was a second person involved who might have been still on the run.
(Perhaps also because the folks of the upper north west DC like to know their tax dollars are working for them. Two weeks before that, a nice policeman came to the door -- within an hour of our call -- to pick up a obviously dumped stolen bicycle in our backyard. And one of our neighbours thought we had better not touch it in case they decided to fingerprint it... I laughed at the idea but maybe that's the level of service they expect up here?)
It turns out that Mr. Aspiring Burgular had seen in through the windows of our next door neighbour's house that no lights were on and no one was home. (Half the houses in this city don't seem to have any curtains, blinds, drapes or venetians over any of the windows. You think people have any chance of seeing their *SUVs* are a greenhouse problem?) So he picked up a metal lawn chair off the back patio and threw it through the nearest window to gain entry. A sixteen year old in the neighbour's house on the other side of the street happened to look in through the same non-curtained windows, and saw torch(es) moving about inside the house so he quickly consulted with his parents and called 911. After speaking to the burgled neighbour the next day, we learned that six envelopes were stolen from the dresser, full of leftover foreign coins in so she could drop them in the UNICEF change-box next time she flew abroad.
I wonder if he will get his own episode of World's Dumbest Criminals? If he does the DC police had better get an honourable mention... and maybe switch to decaf.