For the past few months, the City of Falls Church has seen an increase in thefts around the area leading to a special announcement from City Hall today.
According to Falls Church police, the latest spate of thefts have happened at or around the Eden Center, specifically 6751-6799 Wilson Boulevard. Falls Church City police have said plenty about the common features reported by victims of these crimes.
The criminal suspects start by approaching victims in ways like trying to sell fake jewelry, asking for directions, asking to pray with them or asking for a hug. When the suspects are close enough, they place fake jewelry on the victims while taking the real victims’ jewelry.
Falls Church City Chief of Police Mary Gavin told the News-Press that most of these thefts have been committed by people who are surveilling potential victims at shopping centers and local businesses.
Gavin said these people are a “coordinated group” that are watching people and “taking an opportunity” to catch them off-guard while talking to them “very closely and directly and confusing them.”
“The next thing you know [is] that they’re taking [the victim’s] jewelry off their neck,” Gavin said.
The suspects often flee the scene by vehicle, while victims sometimes do not realize their jewelry has been stolen until the suspects leave.
The suspects are described as a “Middle-Eastern man with one or two Middle Eastern women driving newer Mercedes SUVs.”
Recent incidents have included a larceny at Roosevelt Boulevard on September 25, where two females distracted a male victim while substituting fake jewelry for real jewelry.
Two incidents at Wilson Boulevard on July 25th and September 30th followed the same incident with two suspects distracting a victim with conversation while substituting their real jewelry for fake jewelry.
Gavin said these crimes are often a “ruse of confusion” with victims being put in a vulnerable position by the suspects. She said so far there have not been any assaults associated with these string of thefts, but locals need to be “absolutely aware of your surroundings.”
Falls Church City Police have told the News-Press they are working with the community and business owners to surveil companies that are vulnerable to having items stolen from them. This includes checking surveillance cameras regularly if suspicions arise of a possible robbery, as well as placing Falls Church police officers in discreet locations to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
When one is approached by an unfamiliar person, Gavin advised people need to be “leery” of the distance between that person and a possible suspect, as well as being “direct” with someone who gets “too close.”
In terms of valuables, Gavin said people should be “very careful and discreet” about their jewelry and other possessions by hiding them in non-obvious places. Locking doors to both cars and houses is also a way to prevent a potential theft from happening, as well as traveling in pairs to reduce the risk of someone stealing from or harassing a potential victim.
Chief Gavin also stated there is a growing concern in the “next month or so” of another rise in these crimes because of the upcoming holidays.
People can prevent ways to keep themselves and their valuables safe, according to Gavin. She advised that a person should not carry a lot of cash in their purses, as well as not carrying all of one’s credit cards in one place. She also stated that one shouldn’t “flash” expensive jewelry or cash on public streets, or wear earphones that can allow a suspect to surprise a victim without them being aware of it.
“We always suggest [to] not fight people because you never know if someone has a weapon or how much force they’re going to use,” Gavin said. “The life and safety of our community members is paramount.”