A thief believed to be responsible for more than 50 thefts of items including laptops, electronics and money was caught in an elaborate sting operation by the University Police just before winter break.
UPD’s Special Operations Unit executed the sting on Dec. 17 in the University Parking Garage at 21st and H streets. They arrested the subject, who had outstanding warrants from the Metropolitan Police for failing to appear in court and other charges.
The thief, who had been stealing from parked cars in the garage, is suspected to have taken laptops, academic equipment, change and electronics, according to a UPD report. The subject is believed to have stolen from the same vehicle twice in one day.
The Special Operations Unit, led by Manager for Special Services Tadu Araujo, compiled a record of similar crimes committed since June 2002 and noticed several patterns. One such pattern was the thief’s proclivity for stealing from Hondas, UPD chief Dolores Stafford said.
In December, a team of undercover officers waited in cars inside the parking garage and outside the exits. After an officer witnessed the subject breaking into a car, the officer chased the subject outside, where he was apprehended by officers covering the exits, according to a UPD report.
“All the reported information from these thefts helped us piece together what was happening,” Stafford said, saying it was the small details that allowed the patterns to be detected. “All thefts should be reported, even if they are small. One (theft) could be the piece of the puzzle that helps us solve the case.”
Stafford said the subject had “an extensive criminal record” for crimes ranging from burglary and theft to driving while intoxicated. She added that the subject may also be linked to several other on-campus thefts and thefts around D.C.’s Second District.
“This was outstanding police work,” Stafford said, noting that the bust solved a “frustrating situation” for those parking in the garage.
The Special Operations Unit is responsible for detecting patterns in campus crime and orchestrating undercover and sting operations. Araujo has received special “crime analysis training,” which was used in solving the string of burglaries, Stafford said.
Past actions of the Special Operations Unit have included busting men in Marvin Center bathrooms for committing a variety of lewd acts.
“(Araujo) is responsible for trying to solve cases creatively,” Stafford said. “In this case, the unit was able to notice a pattern based on the crimes that were committed and initiate the sting operation.”