Over a 10-day period in October, items were reported stolen from three separate Arlington County police vehicles while at Koons Ford on East Broad Street in Falls Church. According to police reports, perpetrators removed a host of articles, including police apparel, taser cartridges, pepper spray, ammunition and school floor plans.
The vehicles, three Ford Crown Victorias brought to Koons for servicing, were reportedly entered and looted between the dates of October 16 and October 26. The cars themselves were not stolen, however multiple items were removed from inside of the cruiser cabins. The vehicles showed no signs of forced entry.
The City of Falls Church Police Department is leading the investigation into the larcenies, which is still ongoing. No arrests have been made and there are no suspects at this time.
According to John Bolling, the service manager for the Koons Ford Falls Church location, there was some question as to whether the Arlington cruisers were actually robbed while on the Koons lot. Normally police cars are not dropped off for servicing by the officers themselves, but rather by employees of the Arlington County property yard. In these three instances, Bolling said he was “quite sure” property yard employees brought the cars in for servicing. The Arlington Police Department — along with the Falls Church Police Department, Pentagon Police and various federal agencies — uses Koons when warranty work is required.
Prior to dropping off their vehicles at the Arlington County property yard, officers are instructed to remove all of their equipment from the cars. David Onderdonk, an employee at the property yard, said it is not a common occurrence for police equipment, like that allegedly lost at Koons, to be left inside of the cars after they are turned over to the property yard. The yard itself is surrounded by a large metal fence, making access difficult for intruders.
However Bolling, who has worked at Koons since 1985, says that it is not completely unusual to find personal or police-related items in vehicles when they are brought in for service.
“Falls Church is pretty good about getting all of their stuff out, but you do see it sometimes with Arlington or the Pentagon Police,” Bolling said. “I guess people just think they can leave everything in there and just don't think about it properly.”
The first report recounted a larceny between October 16 and 17, when a 2006 Crown Victoria was targeted. Perpetrators removed a total of nearly 30 items, including handcuffs, OC [pepper] spray, a PR-24 Baton, fuel card, stolen vehicle spikes, drivers license ID book, police traffic vest, windbreaker jacket, schools floor plans, Glock tool, XM Radio, K9 leads, dog toys, K9 baseball cards, portable spotlight and a K9 velcro badge.
Eight days later, on October 24, another 2006 Crown Victoria was reported robbed. This time a tactical bag containing ammunition and various police clothing was taken from the cruiser. Two days later, at 11:22 p.m., the third police car was reported hit, and a bag containing SWAT apparel and cartridges used in police-issue tasers was stolen.
“Officers are required to remove all their weapons from the cars when they are dropped off for service and there were no weapons taken from the vehicles,” Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said when asked about the reports. “Also, my understanding is that there was not a significant amount of ammunition taken.”
Arlington police policy only requires the removal of weapons before leaving a vehicle for service. It does not cover any of the items reportedly taken from cruisers.
While police clothing and floor plans for schools were among the list of missing items, Lisle stated that it was unlikely the thefts were motivated by possible future terrorist activity.
“Larcenies from autos are very common and I assume they were looking for valuables,” Lisle said. “For that reason, it's unlikely that there is any concern from a homeland security perspective.”
It was unknown which schools the plans were for.
Even after the second larceny claim on October 24, Bolling didn't find the larceny reports particularly odd.
“People accuse us of taking or losing their belongings all the time,” Bolling said. “Usually they call up later in a meek little voice, apologize and tell us they found the stuff in their basement.”
No other accounts of larceny have been reported from Koons during that time frame, suggesting that the Arlington police vehicles may have been specifically targeted — though possibly for the simple fact that they had items visible inside.
While there were no signs of forced entry into the three vehicles, Bolling stated he did not believe a Koons employee was responsible, noting they would have had access to the vehicles' keys and therefor able to access the cruisers' trunks. No items were removed from the trunks of the three cars according to Bolling.
While Koons has a policy to leave all vehicles locked while they are on the lot, Bolling noted that a thief could simply pop the lock.
“If a guy wanted to get into a Crown Vic, just a simple slim jim [a device used to unlock car doors without using keys] could do it,” Bolling said.
“The situation is no different than when police vehicles are parked on the streets,” Lisle said. “Moving forward, will this change our policy? No, but we will probably encourage our officers not to leave anything inside of their cars when they are serviced.”