By Allison Priebe
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Hi Alexandria! Allison Priebe here, The Queen Bee of Queen Bee Designs in Old Town, with a cautionary tale I’d like to share. Sunday, February 7, was a big day in our community. We had just dodged a major ice and snowstorm that morning, it was Super Bowl Sunday, and most importantly for me as a business owner, it was Day 2 of The Alexandria Warehouse Sale. I was headed into the store at 1 p.m. and, because I didn’t want my hair to fall flat in the misty rain, I was still in hot rollers. I stopped briefly at the Liberty Gas Station on S. Patrick St. just across from West Marine to fill my car. (Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good deal. My go-to place for discounted gas has always been a Liberty Gas station.)
Before I could even get one gallon of gas in my SUV, a man slipped into the passenger side of my car and locked me out. I pounded on my driver side window for him to get the hell out of my car! I jumped on the car’s running board in my snow boots and began screaming at the top of my lungs for help and to call 911. He drove away pulling the gas line out of the tank, spraying gas and leaving me stunned. I ran inside the attendant’s office and pleaded for him to call the police, who arrived about 10 to 15 minutes later while I was on the gas station’s phone trying to track my car and my iPhone with my daughter, using the Life 360 app. After only six minutes, my phone had been shut off in Prince George’s County.
The police explained the criminals were now in a different jurisdiction, and they put out an APB alerting law enforcement in Maryland that my white 2017 Lexus SUV license plate UNX9325 had been stolen. But it wasn’t only my new car that had been stolen – all of my essential, personal items were also taken, including two winter coats, my laptop, purse, wallet, keys, cash from the big sale, donations to Goodwill, work portfolio, my journal, Ugg boots, and on and on. I’ve been so busy with work I was basically living out of my car, like so many of us do without realizing it. After working my tail off for nearly two decades as a small business owner, I was barely making it through this new COVID era of retail. To say the loss was significant for me would be putting it mildly. What did I do after the carjacking, attempting to track the car to no avail, working much of the afternoon with the police and closing all my bank accounts? I tucked my tail between my legs, went home, ate a baked potato, turned on the Super Bowl, popped a Xanax and went to sleep at 6:30.
The next morning, I woke up from the nightmare very angry and determined to track down whatever I could recover. My credit card had been used at a Target in District Heights and a Sunoco in National Harbor, and my laptop was almost sold at a computer chop shop on Marlboro Pike. My partner Ken and I drove to PG County to investigate all of those spots as we reported back to the Alexandria Police Department and Detective Boyd. When our day was complete, we had to promise to leave the investigation to the proper authorities so we would not put ourselves in danger. I should consider myself lucky – I was not hurt, assaulted, or killed during the theft. Therein lies the purpose of this detailed and personal account of my carjacking: I want to warn my community that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.
Carjackings, vehicle thefts, and break-ins are on the rise in the DMV and in many cities across the country. DC even created a Carjacking Task Force earlier this month to deal with the epidemic. Times are tough during the pandemic and some people are desperate. We must be vigilant and remember to lock our doors at home and lock our cars even when pumping gas for less than sixty seconds. I had not realized the tracking devices in my car nor the tracking service through Sirius XM needed to be activated. I also tend to be a pack rat and carry more in my car than I should. Well, those days are over! My new mantra is “less is more.” Do not leave items in the car if you can help it. Bring in your things at night so as not to tempt a grab-and-go thief. Pump gas in well-lit, safe spots during the daytime, park as close as possible to your destination, try not to get distracted with things like your phone, and activate all your security devices and tracking systems.
It has been a couple of weeks since I was the victim of this vicious crime and I am plugging along trying to work and be productive at my store. To my knowledge, there are no leads in my case and nothing has been recovered. What I could really use is continued community support and folks to come to Queen Bee Designs and show some small business love.
My friends, customers, and Alexandrians have been wonderful. I have been treated to three delicious meals from girlfriends; gifted a personal security device, bottle of wine, and a Sugar House gift card; enjoyed flowers from The Old Town Boutique District; and received hundreds of messages of love and social media shares to help warn others of the surge in carjackings. Bee vigilant! Thank you.
Allison Priebe is a nationally recognized jewelry designer, who was honored by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce in 2016 as one of the remarkable 40 Under 40. Her shop, Queen Bee Designs is located at 825 South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria.