As of today, Arlington County has been homicide-free for exactly two years. It’s the first time Arlington has gone this long without a homicide in the 72-year history of the Arlington County Police Department.
“Reaching this mark is only possible through a combination of effective policing, excellent medical care, successful prosecution and cooperating communities; all of which we have experienced in Arlington County the past two years,” police chief M. Douglas Scott said in a statement.
The county has not recorded a single homicide since March 14, 2010, when a 20-year-old man was stabbed to death in the Lyon Park neighborhood. The suspect in the case later pleaded guilty to second degree murder.
Amid the celebration of the murder-free milestone, however, there’s some concern within the department that there are not enough cops on the street to ensure that the recent, broader drop in crime continues. Despite a growing population and new post-9/11 anti-terrorism responsibilities, Arlington’s police force has actually shrunk slightly since 2001.
Whereas there were 362 sworn officers in Fiscal Year 2001 for a population of 189,983, there are currently 359 sworn officers for a population of 213,400 in FY 2012. That means ratio of officers to every 1,000 residents is 1.68, compared to 1.91 in FY 2001. That ratio is expected to get even narrower — to 1.67 — if the current recommended FY 2013 budget is adopted. (The population is expected to grow to 215,000 while the budget doesn’t provide for any additional officers.)
By comparison, in 2010 Alexandria’s officer/resident ratio was 2.19, and D.C.’s ratio was 6.52, according to a law enforcement source. Just to match Alexandria’s ratio, Arlington would need to hire more than 100 new officers.
“Our numbers are extremely low,” a police official told ARLnow.com. “Obviously we’re working efficiently, I don’t think anybody would deny that… [but] at some point in time, I’m not sure how much lower our ratio can go” without a corresponding increase in crime.
In this week’s Arlington County crime report, two men are accused of particularly vicious instances of domestic violence. Both alleged crimes took place yesterday (Tuesday) while in public.
At 11:50 a.m. on Tuesday, a man is accused of holding down a woman and threatening her in Crystal City, before a Good Samaritan intervened.
ABDUCTION/ASSAULT & BATTERY, 03/13/12, 2600 block of Jefferson Davis Highway. On March 13 at 11:50 am, a male subject and a known female victim were involved in a verbal argument. When the female attempted to flee the scene on foot, the male subject knocked her to the ground and threatened her while holding her around the neck to the ground. A witness came to assistance of the victim, recovered a knife from the subject and police arrived a short time later. James Curtis, 43, of Washington, DC, was charged with domestic assault and battery and abduction. Curtis was held without bail.
Later that day, a man was accused of breaking a car window and trying to pull a woman through the broken window, before she was able to drive away and lead him on a car chase that ended at a fire station.
ATTEMPTED MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 03/13/12, 1900 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:10 pm on March 13, a victim was involved in a verbal argument with a known subject when the subject punched her vehicle window out and attempted to pull her from the vehicle. The victim was able to drive away but the subject followed her, striking her vehicle several times with his vehicle. The victim was able to stop at a local fire station and the suspect fled. Officers apprehended him a short distance away. Michael Hallmon, 50, of Arlington, was charged with attempted malicious wounding, felony hit and run, domestic assault, driving while intoxicated, refusal to submit to a breath test and possession of marijuana. He is being held without bond.
As always, all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. The rest of this week’s crime report, including the motivation behind Friday’s Buckingham shooting, after the jump.
The original plan, as approved in 2009, was to take 48 units of the 140-apartment Buckingham Village 3 affordable housing community and sell them as condos to moderate-income households. Last night, that plan was officially scrapped after the Arlington County Board was told that the condos would be a tough sell.
Buckingham Village 3, a series of 16 low-rise apartment buildings along the 300 block of block of N. George Mason Drive, was purchased by the county for $34.5 million in March 2009 as part of its ongoing effort to increase the supply of committed affordable housing in Arlington.
The initial goal for the community was to renovate the buildings, lease 92 apartments to households earning below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and sell the remaining 48 units to households making 60 to 80 percent AMI. The condo component was part of a county initiative to increase home ownership among moderate income households.
The condo plan, however, eventually became the victim of grim market realities, according to a staff report. As determined by two market studies commissioned at the request of the county, selling the condos to households in the target income range would have required “significant price reductions” due in part to the onerous affordability restrictions that would come with such a purchase. Also hurting sales: the difficulty in securing a mortgage for households in the income range. In the end, the market research suggested it could have taken up to four years to sell all 48 units, with a county subsidy of nearly $230,000 per unit.
Last night, the County Board reluctantly but unanimously voted to keep the 48 would-be condos as committed affordable rental apartments.
“This is not the outcome the Board had hoped for when we set this project in motion in 2009,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “However, the Board’s action today ensures that these 48 Buckingham 3 units will be preserved as affordable rentals for decades to come.”
The Board also directed staff to find new ways to help lower-income residents to buy a home.
“We also have given staff clear direction to devise a funding strategy to help qualified, low- and moderate-income, first-time vested Buckingham home buyers the chance to buy — either in the Buckingham neighborhood, or elsewhere in Arlington,” Hynes said.
SOJA, a reggae group founded by a group of Arlington natives, made their national television debut Monday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The band performed “Gone Today,” from their new album Strength to Survive, which is currently #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard and iTunes reggae charts. The album was released on ATO, the record label co-founded by Dave Matthews, with whom the band has toured.
(The video, above, is queued up to the beginning of the performance.)
Also known as Soldiers of Jah Army, SOJA came from humble local beginnings. The band was founded by two best friends, Jacob Hemphill and Bobby Lee, who started performing together as middle school students in Arlington. After picking up three other bandmates in high school, SOJA was formed and began performing around the D.C. area. Following graduation, the band began touring and their success has been growing ever since.
“Over the course of the past few years, SOJA has sold more than 150,000 albums, headlined large theaters in more than 15 countries around the world, generated over 20 million+ YouTube views, amassed more than a half-million Facebook fans, and attracted an almost Grateful Dead-like international fanbase that grows with each tour, with caravans of diehards following them from city to city,” the band’s website says. “Most impressive of all, they’ve accomplished all this on their own.”
SOJA is currently on tour and will be performing for two nights at the 9:30 Club in D.C. in May. One of the nights, Saturday, May 19, will feature ?uestlove, of The Roots and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon fame, as a special guest artist. SOJA will also be performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee in June.
Ever wonder what the building being constructed across Route 50 from the Courthouse neighborhood is?
Dominion says they’re making good progress on the project, which includes the substation — located on the grounds of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall — and a new 3.7 mile, 230,000 volt underground electrical transmission line. The company just wrapped up transmission line work along 10th Street between Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon and Route 50. It’s now working on the final phase of the project: running the remainder of the transmission line from the new substation to Marshall Drive and Route 110, near the Pentagon.
Work on the project is expected to be complete by the end of the year, according to Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson. The new transmission line and substation will help support future growth in Arlington while improving the reliability of Dominion’s electrical service, according the company.
The three candidates for Arlington County Board squared off last night at a forum hosted by the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association. Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, Democrat Libby Garvey and Republican Mark Kelly advanced cases for why they each should get voter support.
Garvey’s main push is for more communication and transparency in government.
“I think we’re having a little trouble keeping our priorities straight. Is it all about education, infrastructure, public safety? Or is it all about Artispheres and street cars and that sort of thing,” Garvey said. “I think we need to be very clear about our priorities and make them our core services.”
Kelly’s focus is on greater fiscal discipline. He’s also interested in getting the current board members to think outside the box.
“They talk a lot about the Arlington Way and including communities. But sometimes when the rubber meets the road, it’s a lot of talk,” said Kelly. “Someone needs to be presenting alternative plans and offering amendments even if they lose.”
Clement touted her fiscal responsibility as well. She distinguishes herself from Kelly by saying their ideologies are different, and cost reduction doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the welfare of residents. She advocates eliminating what she calls wasteful spending projects like Artisphere, the planned Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center and the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. She said a bus system would provide the same service at one-fifth the cost of the streetcar’s estimated $250 million dollar price tag.
Kelly also stated opposition to the streetcar project. Garvey, on the other hand, wouldn’t offer a firm opinion on the idea. She did, however, express interest in examining expanded bus service instead. Like other issues raised throughout the night, the streetcar is something she said she “questions.”
“I’m not taking a stand on it right yet, but I have lots of questions about whether it makes sense for the amount of money that we need to put in,” Garvey said.
A topic referred to throughout the forum is the Board green-lighting the purchase of an office building in the Courthouse neighborhood for a homeless shelter. The candidates assert that regardless of whether or not a year-round homeless shelter a good idea, the process for approving the deal was faulty. Garvey, while again stating she has questions about the project, reiterated the need for transparency. She said although the board may have had good reasons for their decision, residents don’t like it.
Incentives for Home Energy Efficiency – Arlington County is partnering with a nonprofit group to provide 320 Arlington homeowners with incentives to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) will provide $125,000 in grants to help homeowners achieve at least a 20 percent energy savings. [Arlington County]
Closures for Weekend 5K Race — A number of streets will be closed in the Williamsburg area on Saturday for the 2nd annual Nottingham Elementary PTA 5K Run/Walk. Parts of Williamsburg Boulevard, Little Falls Road and N. Ohio Street will be closed between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. Race participants are being encouraged to wear green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. [Arlington County Police Department]
Yorktown QB to Play at Salisbury — Jordan Smith, the quarterback who helped lead Yorktown High School to an undefeated regular season this past fall, has committed to play football for Salisbury University in Maryland. Salisbury, a Division III program, recruited Smith as a quarterback. [Sun Gazette]