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Rooftop Burglar Caught; Not the One Wanted

By P.L. Wolff

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

It was after closing on the night of February 24 and the owner of the popular Duplex Diner on 18th Street at Florida Avenue, Eric Hirshfield, was across the street having drinks with a friend when he happened to notice that the rooftop hatch above his establishment was open. He immediately called the police who arrived within minutes and caught the intruder on the spot.

To the dismay of Dupont Circle area residents, he was not the same rooftop burglar who, nearly two-dozen times since December, has been gaining access through both unsecured and secured roof hatches and unlocked upper floor rear deck doors during daytime and quickly exiting through front and rear doors with mostly computers, other electronics, and TVs.

The especially curious aspect is that he has returned several times to rob houses on the south side of the 1700 block of Corcoran Street and houses across the alley on the north side of Q Street, notwithstanding extensive local TV and newspaper reporting and the publicity that the police are conducting extensive undercover work and that he has been seen by witnesses on several occasions.

Most recently, on the afternoon March 6, the rooftop burglar eluded the police by just minutes after they swarmed into the 1700 block of Corcoran Street and the alley between it and Q Street while the he was still believed to be inside one of the houses.

The immediate police response had been triggered by two calls to 911. The first one was from the same resident of a top floor condo unit in one of the houses who, following a similar break-in through the roof hatch early in the year. Following that robbery of $7,000-worth of electronics he not only secured the hatch and installed an alarm system but also set up a webcam that would activate by motion sensor & send an email alert to him. And, that is what happened on March 6; an email alerted him at work, he went on line and opened the link to his camera and saw a pair of legs protruding from the ceiling and immediately called 911; the police were there almost instantly.

At the same time a Q Street neighbor who was up on his roof deck called 911 when he saw a man jump over a Corcoran Street back yard fence and climb up to the roof and start walking across to a house into which he disappeared from view.