Unusual increase in crime in FC addressed by police chief

Over the past few months, the Church in the City of Falls has seen an increase in thefts in the area, leading to a special announcement from City Hall today.

According to Falls Church Police, the latest wave of robberies occurred at or around the Eden Center, specifically at 6751-6799 Wilson Boulevard. Falls Church City police have spoken extensively about the common characteristics reported by victims of these crimes.

Suspects begin by approaching victims 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 jewelry from the real victims.

Falls Church City Police Chief Mary Gavin told News-Press that most of the robberies were carried out by people watching for potential victims at local malls and businesses.

Gavin said these people are a “coordinated group” that watches people and “takes the 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 take [the victim’s] jewelry on their neck,” Gavin said.

Suspects often flee the scene in vehicles, 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 include a robbery on Roosevelt Boulevard on September 25, where two women distracted a male victim by replacing fake jewelry with real jewelry.

Two incidents on Wilson Boulevard on July 25 and September 30 followed the same incident with two suspects distracting a victim with a conversation while replacing their real jewelry with fake jewelry.

Gavin said these crimes are often a “confusion trick”, with the victims put in a vulnerable position by the suspects. She said so far there have been no assaults associated with this series of thefts, but locals need to be “absolutely aware of your surroundings”.

Falls Church City Police told News-Press they are working with the community and business owners to monitor businesses at risk of having items stolen. This includes regularly checking surveillance cameras for any suspicion of a possible theft, as well as placing Falls Church police officers in discreet locations to watch for suspicious activity.

When someone is approached by an unfamiliar person, Gavin advised people to be wary of the distance between that person and a potential suspect, as well as to be “blunt” with someone who gets “too close”.

As for valuables, Gavin said people should be “very careful and discreet” about their jewelry and other possessions by hiding them in non-obvious places. Locking car and home doors is also a way to prevent a potential theft from occurring, as well as traveling in pairs to reduce the risk of someone stealing or harassing a potential victim.

Chief Gavin also said there was growing concern in the “next month or so” of a further increase in such crimes due to the upcoming holidays.

People can prevent ways to protect themselves and their valuables, according to Gavin. She advised that a person should not carry a lot of cash in their purse, nor carry all their credit cards in one place. She also said one should not “flaunt” expensive jewelry or money on public streets, or wear headphones which can allow a suspect to surprise a victim without their knowledge.

“We always suggest [to] don’t fight people because you never know if someone has a weapon or what force they’re going to use,” Gavin said. “The lives and safety of our community members are paramount.”

Jerry B. Hatch