The Wash
This is First Street, one of the locations targeted by car thieves in the NoMa community. (Ana Álvarez/The Wash)

Number of stolen cars is on the rise in NoMa

Police are also responding to an increase in thefts from inside autos.

Stolen car crimes increased 188% during the last two years in the NoMa community, according to statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD.)

Records show thieves have stolen 95 cars between October of 2018 and October of 2020, compared to 33 auto thefts in those same months between 2016 and 2018.

“I have insurance,” one resident near the Union Market told the Wash when we asked about increased thefts in the area. “If someone wants my car, they can take my car, not worth my life.”

The vehicle owner, who asked we not use her name in this article, said she heard about the theft-from-auto-trends from her clients. She read on the Washington D. C. community sites PoPville and DCist that “delivery food drivers were having issues with their cars being jacked.”

Even though she knows people steal from cars, she said she still feels safe leaving her vehicle parked in the street.

“You just have to know your community,” the NoMa resident said, “if you’re desperate enough to steal a car, then we probably need to start looking  at our community and saying ‘how can we meet the needs of the people?’ Rather than just allowing for opportunities for people to steal cars.”

The map below pinpoints the locations where the 95 cars were stolen in the past two years. These records were downloaded from the Crime Card database provided by the MPD.


The map pinpoints the locations of stolen cars since January 2020 until October 2020. The information was gathered by the Metropolitan Police Department. (Ana Álvarez/ The Wash)

The same database showed a 229% increase in stolen autos from the beginning of this year until now, compared to that same time in 2019. Since January of 2020, 69 cars have been reported stolen, according to the Crime Cards database. The map below details the locations within the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) where the offenses occurred.

The map pinpoints the locations of stolen cars since January 2020 until October 2020. The information was gathered by the Metropolitan Police Department. (Ana Álvarez/ The Wash)

Since Sept. 19 of this year, 13 cars were reported stolen in the NoMa BID compared to the three cars stolen in the same time frame in 2019. The map below details the locations of where the 13 cars were stolen, according to the MPD Crime Cards database.

This map details the 13 reported stolen car locations from the this month in the NoMa BID. The information was gathered by the Metropolitan Police Department. (Ana Álvarez/ The Wash)

The NoMa resident mentioned that a car with a baby inside was recently stolen in her neighborhood. This occurred on Sept. 30, according to NBC Washington. The baby was “unharmed,” the resident said, “it’s still an incredibly scary moment.”

NoMa belongs to the first sector of the fifth police district.

Within this larger geographic area, crime reports show 387 cars reported stolen since January, a 40% increase for the region.

Christopher Moore, captain of the district’s second sector sent an email  to the fifth district Google Group on Sept. 24  regarding the spike in stolen vehicles. “These types of crimes are too prevalent, and it is often difficult to close these cases,” he said.

Peter Sheldon, lieutenant of the district’s third sector, sent an email to the fifth district community Google Group on Sept. 30. “The District of Columbia has recently witnessed a recent spike in Theft One Stolen Automobile to include vehicles that are running unattended and not locked,” he said.  

The Wash did not see a message in the Google group from any commander in the first sector, that includes NoMa.  When asked, MPD Captain Zdenek Fronek, said public service announcements like the ones sent out by Moore and Sheldon, were typically the job of the communications department of the MPD. 

In addition to the stolen car rise, 17 thefts from inside vehicles in the NoMa area have been reported since Sept. 19,  according to the MPD Crime Card database.

“Right now, our number one area is in NoMa in the area of the Union Market,” said 

The Wash checked the crime database and found two theft-from-car offenses reported in the Union Market area in the last month.  Crimes in 1200 Block of 1st street were even higher.

Some of the crimes reported on this block have been in a grocery store. Harris Teeter is the supermarket located in that area. (Ana Álvarez/The Wash)

Fronek said that “it’s kind of impossible to pinpoint exact times,” but the police department identified afternoon and nighttime as the moment of the crime spike. Nonetheless, the theft sometimes gets noticed hours after it happened, he said.

The NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) does not have an organization in charge of watching the community. The president of the NoMa BID, Robin-Eve Jasper, said she had no knowledge of the community having a neighborhood watch.

Jasper, who recognized that the community has seen a rise in theft from auto crimes, downplayed the situation by saying that the numbers, compared to 2019, are not high. “Those numbers just move around,” she said.

Fronek, who said he does not handle the offenses reports, confirmed that the police department has heard from the communities in the district. Nonetheless, they take notice of the crimes from the victims themselves.

Fronek said that the police department community outreach team was in the process of handing pamphlets and posting flyers around the community with safety guidance and notices. 

Jasper said that they are also working on cards to remind people to be aware and safe of these crimes. They designed and handed out cards in collaboration with the MPD last year as well.

Ana Álvarez

Ana Álvarez is a Puerto Rican graduate student pursuing a degree in Journalism and Public Affairs with a specialization in investigative journalism. She covers the NoMa community for The Wash.

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