The Wash
APD car
(Cameron Adams/The Wash)

Local man “lucky” to have stolen car back despite law enforcement gaffe

Putting Alexandria’s car theft into a broader perspective.

An Alexandria man received a ticket in the mail for a violation days after he had reported his car stolen.

While recovered, the car now “smelled like fricken’ dirtweed,” said the man who did not want to be named for privacy and concerns about retribution.

“Someone smoked a blunt and drank a Big Gulp and left it less than a mile from my house,” the man said.

The abandoned vehicle sat for weeks, unbeknownst to the owner and Alexandria Police Department. The victim discovered the location of the vehicle after receiving the ticket in the mail.

Parking Enforcement issued the ticket four days after the owner reported his car stolen. The ticket arrived in the mail a week later.

Authorities never connected the ticket with the missing vehicle report in that time.

The man was critical of how the APD and its Parking Enforcement division were unable to communicate. He questioned why the issuing of a ticket did not immediately flag the officer to the vehicle’s missing status.

“They kind of dropped the ball,” he said.

The ticket was for an expired inspection sticker. The victim said the car had been unused in his driveway while he was in the process of addressing the situation.

Locating the car sooner may have aided the investigation, such as with security cameras that delete footage after a certain period of time, according to the car owner.

The police officer investigating the theft said she would “take car of it,” referring to the ticket, according to the man.

Mobility Services oversees the programs and policies surrounding parking, according to Division Chief Katye North. This includes the ParkMobile app as well as zones and regulations.

“Mobility Services is not involved with the day-to-day enforcement of these restrictions and does not review any tickets that are issued by APD,” North said.

The Alexandria Police Department was unable to provide answers to written questions in time for publication.

Aside from “blunt ashes all over the dashboard” and $250 in cleaning fees to get rid of the odor, the man considered himself “lucky” that he was able to get his car back.

Motor vehicle theft trends

As of December 10, 2023, 451 cars have been reported stolen in Alexandria, according to city data. That is the most since 2005.

The FBI tracks national auto theft, on a per capita basis. Using these figures, we can compare the rate of car theft in Alexandria to how many thefts would be expected given the number of residents.

Annual theft rates remained steady between 2011 and 2019, but have ticked upward since 2020. Fewer cars are stolen in Alexandria than the national averages based on population.

Alexandria police have not caught the Big Gulp burglar, as of publication. The case is unsolved and still open. This is the norm.

Only 32 of the 451 vehicle theft cases have ended in arrests thus far in 2023. That closure rate is 32% higher than last year’s national average.

Alexandria has routinely been ahead of the national average in solving car theft.

While Alexandria’s data are more erratic than national averages, the trend line is relatively straight and indicates that APD solved this particular type of crime at a better rate than national averages.

Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams is an emerging journalist covering Alexandria, Virginia for the Wash. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Journalism at American University.

Add comment

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular

Most discussed