Monday, April 2, 2012

Neighborhood Watch: Detective Kirk's Story

The following story was related by Detective Sally Kirk, a retiree of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. Sally worked in the Major Burglary Unit for several years.

In 1981, shortly after Bernard Welch was arrested, Detective Sally Kirk attended a regional burglary meeting. A Fairfax County Police Department lieutenant mentioned that a couple of years ago during the height of silver burglaries in an upscale neighborhood, the residents formed a Neighborhood Watch Committee. The lieutenant was assigned to go to the meeting at a home to help organize the program and lead the first session. He left directly from another assignment and arrived early, just after dinnertime. He killed some time cruising around the neighborhood, driving his unmarked car slowly and deliberately from one block to another, looking for house and landscaping features that would thwart or entice burglars so he could bring them up at the meeting. As he turned right at one intersection, he saw a brand new silver Mercedes Benz slip around the corner a block away with a white male driver. The detective thought nothing of it; expensive cars were common in this neighborhood.

A 1980  Mercedes Benz 450 SEL.  Bernard Welch drove cars that blended
into the affluent neighborhoods targeted for his crimes.
With ten more minutes to kill, he decided to park in the block where the watch committee meeting was to be held. While listening to his car radio, he noticed that same silver Mercedes come around onto the block where he was parked. He watched in his rearview mirror as the vehicle approached. The driver was a good-looking guy with dark hair and a Zapata moustache who also seemed to be driving around the area slowly and deliberately. The detective shut off the music and almost pulled out to follow the driver, but that expensive car disguised the fact that this may have been an interloper. The meeting could not start without him, so he opted instead to gather up his presentation materials and be on time. The folk who lived in this area had a lot of money and were politely demanding to know what was going to be done about this rash of break-ins. Block meetings went a long ways toward silencing those drumbeats. It encouraged the neighbors to help each other and help themselves, which also helped the police department.

After Bernard Welch’s capture, this encounter was brought up at a Burglary Task Force meeting. The Fairfax detective hadn’t thought much about the incident since that Neighborhood Watch Meeting of a couple of years ago. The moderator of the Task Force couldn’t help but point out to this detective, and others in attendance, that based on the description of the car and driver, it was Bernard C. Welch who had driven past him.
            – James King


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