Capitol Police Arrest Man on Unlawful Entry, Burglary Charges

Posted June 26, 2003 at 3:34pm

A cross-campus chase by the Library of Congress police Thursday morning led to the arrest of a suspected thief whom officials identified as a repeat offender.

The Capitol Police received the first complaint about the suspect around 10 a.m. from staff in Room 119 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The office is used by the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.

The caller had asked the person to leave, and contacted Capitol Police when the man refused, police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel said.

After leaving the office voluntarily, the suspect was stopped by a Capitol Police officer, who filed a report on the incident but did not arrest the suspect because there was no cause to do so.

An aide in the office referred requests for comment to the full committee. A spokesman there did not return a call Thursday afternoon.

A short time later, Capitol Police received reports that the suspect had entered Room 203 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

While in the Hart office, which is used by the Republican staff of the Finance Committee, the suspect was confronted by a staff member, according to a spokeswoman for the committee.

The witness reported that the suspect was a courier, who told her he was returning an item he had stolen from the office Wednesday.

The witness requested the suspect stay in the office while she contacted Capitol Police to file a report, but the man ran away.

The suspect then entered the Library of Congress Adams Building.

During a routine exit search at the Adams Building — Library of Congress police search visitors to ensure items are not removed from the Library’s collections — an officer noted a Library label on a laptop the suspect had in his possession.

Following the search, the suspect fled in the direction of the Capitol, and a Library officer pursued the man into the Russell Senate Office Building, where he was arrested.

Gissubel said the suspect will be charged with theft and unlawful entry in the Adams Building, as well as burglary in Hart and unlawful entry in Dirksen.

Similar incidents of petty thefts are common the Congressional offices buildings, which are considered public space, Gissubel said.

“We did catch [the suspect]; however, we’ve caught him before,” Gissubel said, noting that the department has “several” repeat offenders who have been arrested and charged in the office thefts.

The department uses a variety of methods to thwart thefts, including educating officers on known offenders, but Gissubel declined to discuss specific measures because it could reduce their effectiveness.

Gissubel points out that Hill staffers can reduce the likelihood of thefts in their offices by not leaving valuables or other items like purses in plain view, where they are easily accessible to anyone entering the office. She also advises that staff members not put items in obvious locations, such as unlocked file cabinets or jacket pockets, when leaving them behind in the office.

The thieves are often familiar with the Congressional offices, and the practices of staffers. “They will come in and hit all these places in a minute, and they’re out,” Gissubel said.

“We need people to be fully aware of their surroundings,” she later added.

Although the Capitol Police do brief individual offices on theft prevention, Gissubel said the department faces “a battle with man power” in its efforts to visit all 535 personal offices, in addition to committee and leadership offices.

“We would love to initiate more officers out there at more offices giving more briefings, but it’s something that’s going to be difficult,” she said.