Laptops vanish like bubbles in DC

June 28, 2006 10:14 AM EDT

The recent Veterans Administration laptop theft prompted me to call the Washington DC police department to find out if they could tell me how many laptops are stolen in DC.

But first some background about living in DC, my home. The crime is so bad in some areas that some people leave their cars unlocked so thieves won’t smash the windows to steal a half depleted roll of Lifesavers. Those lovely flowers you planted? If your neighbors don’t clip off the roses first, the resellers will dig the plants up. Muggings? Only a tourist carries all their plastic.

Police do not break out laptops in burglary and robbery statistics. But the DC Police’s Research and Resource Development Division graciously responded to this request which took some research on their part. A week after my call, they provided this statistic:

The number of laptops stolen in DC last year: 1,009. (For the record the VA’s laptop with millions of veteran records on it was stolen in Maryland from an employee's home.)

Is that a lot of missing laptops? How many missing laptops add up to a lot? DC police believe it’s an underreported number. Some thefts aren’t reported and police reports are incomplete.

But out of those 1009 laptops how many contained customer data, business and government records, classified information and saucy letters written by congressional staffers that one can only hope will turn up on a blog? Dear Bubbles ...