“Are you available for a vehicle search, 66 and 495, to assist state?” screeches the police radio.
Cpl. Dave Torpy with the Arlington County Police Department receives a call from dispatch regarding a potential drug situation in Fairfax County. He confirms he can respond to the mutual aid call and heads out to his car to join his partner waiting inside. But his is no ordinary partner. Torpy gets to work with Ozzie, one of ACPD’s K-9 members.
The two head to the scene and find state police waiting for them. State police had pulled over the driver of a truck who was spotted wrecking one of his front wheels when he crashed into a jersey barrier. The driver allegedly kept going until he was pulled over, and police suspected he was under the influence of some sort of substance. Torpy and Ozzie were requested from Arlington because no other K-9 teams were available in Fairfax.
Torpy walks Ozzie to the vehicle and indicates places to sniff by leading his hand close to, but not touching, certain areas. He explains that officers are not allowed to search inside a vehicle without a warrant, but the law allows the investigation of the vehicle’s perimeter. Should a K-9 partner “hit” on a scent of drugs wafting from inside the vehicle to the outside, that’s considered probable cause and officers may perform a full search.
He points out areas where dogs often pick up drug scents emanating from inside, such as along door cracks or crevices in the vehicle body. But Ozzie doesn’t need any leading and pulls Torpy to a different portion of the vehicle. Ozzie stands up on the side of the truck bed, scratching and emitting low growls.
The multiple instances of scratching and barking are exactly what police look for; those actions are what the dogs are trained to do when they smell drugs. That is the permission police need to open this particular vehicle for probable cause and to continue their search.
Ozzie is allowed inside the vehicle and he repeatedly sniffs and scratches at the sun visors and along cracks around the door. Torpy explains those are two common places for suspects to stash drugs quickly when they’re getting pulled over by police.
When it’s clear that Ozzie smells something out of the ordinary, he’s led back to the ACPD cruiser to wait. It’s now time for humans to take over and to continue the search for illicit substances. Once humans enter the equation, dogs typically are not brought back in. Humans searching for items might spread the scent from a “hot” area to places where nothing was hidden. Bringing in a dog at that point could yield, for example, a dozen hits in a vehicle that previously only had one.
“He really likes this vehicle,” Torpy said. “He paid attention to the open window a lot and actually barked and scratched along the seams. If you weren’t initially looking for dope, you wouldn’t necessarily look at the seams. But his nose took us there so we can search further.”
Ozzie, a Belgian Malinois, is one of the nine dogs in ACPD’s K-9 unit. Seven are “dual purpose” or patrol dogs that assist with building searches, evidence recovery, criminal apprehension and narcotics detection. Two are trained solely to detect explosives; one bomb detection dog belongs to a crime scene agent and the other belongs to a school resource officer.
Most of the dogs are purchased from reputable breeders in Europe, but the two bomb dogs were rescues. One was adopted from a shelter in Loudoun County and the other was donated by a family that could no longer care for the dog.
Sgt. John McCarthy is also a dog handler and supervises the K-9 unit. McCarthy goes out on calls with his partner, Charly, just like all the other K-9 unit members, but he also oversees the unit’s operations. He handles scheduling, helps with handler and dog hiring, and purchases supplies like food and toys.
Prior to his appointment in 2007, the department did not have a supervisor for the unit. Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott was instrumental in adding the position and with expanding the K-9 unit to allow for nearly 24-7 police dog coverage.
“When I was doing a review of the units, I saw at the time we only had four dogs. They were not really a full unit they were just on squads,” said Scott. “I didn’t think it was an effective way to run the program.”
Scott joined the department in 2003 and approved the addition of two dual purpose dogs in 2004, two bomb detecting dogs in 2006, and McCarthy’s supervisory position including a dog in 2007.
“We’ve done it all gradually by converting existing positions,” said Scott. “I didn’t want to be going to the County Manager or County Board asking to add new positions. I made the case internally and started the expansion that way.”
The current price of a police dog runs around $7,000 plus the cost of continuous training. Those working in the unit, along with Chief Scott, believe it’s a wise investment.
“K-9 to me has always been something I would describe as a force multiplier. Their ability to get in and search a building, do a track, is so much better than using multiple officers or for officers to be doing a blind search. They’ve proven themselves time and time again,” Scott said. “It’s well worth the investment.”
In 2013, the ACPD K-9 unit responded to 495 calls in Arlington County and 27 mutual aid calls in neighboring jurisdictions. The dogs helped apprehend 22 criminals, found narcotics in 26 vehicles or residences and found narcotics 23 times during sweeps of packages at United States Postal Service facilities. (more…)
The flyer at the left was recently posted at the Washington & Lee Apartments (2200 2nd Street N.), threatening “legal action and fines” against those who feed the squirrels. Sandra Rose, who has been the apartment property manager for 18 years, stresses she’s not trying to be nasty, but the animals have been causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to the property.
“People think they’re cute and cuddly, and they are. But they don’t always understand they’re a rodent,” Rose said. “As a rodent they do rodent type damage.”
The squirrels recently have chewed holes in roofs on the buildings and residents have complained about the animals getting into their attics. Rose said she has had to hire exterminators to try to capture the animals once they’re loose in the building.
The roof damage isn’t the only problem with the squirrels the property manager has encountered. Rose said in the past, she’s sent out similar flyers when the squirrels managed to get into residents’ car engines and strip spark plug wire material, which they then used to pack their nests.
Rose said one of the exterminators actually spotted residents feeding the animals, which is why she sent out the flyer. She recommends other property owners inform their residents of how destructive the squirrels can be.
“I think they should let tenants know not to feed them because that’s domesticating them,” said Rose. “When they become domesticated they become dependent on you and won’t go away.”
Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas shared Rose’s concerns. He said feeding any wild mammals, squirrels or others, is a bad idea.
“In a nutshell, with mammals the overall idea is it’s not a good idea to feed them,” Abugattas said. “When you start feeding more unusual wildlife — squirrels, deer, foxes, raccoons — that’s a bad idea. It changes their behavior, and not only will they hang out in places where they shouldn’t, but they lose some of their fear and healthy respect for humans. Wild foods are always healthier for the animals anyway.”
While contracting rabies is a rare occurrence, it could be a possibility if the animals become so domesticated that they approach people, and perhaps bite them. Abugattas said it’s one of the many health concerns stemming from feeding wild animals. Another concern is the the spread of diseases to pets.
A smaller acorn crop in Virginia and West Virginia this fall is prompting squirrels to change their behavior this winter, Abugattas added. As a result, squirrels and other animals have been seeking out non-traditional food sources to make up for the lack of acorns.
Robert Morris, a prominent local architect and winner of a number of Arlington County Preservation Design awards, has died at the age of 53.
According to his obituary in an Alabama newspaper, Morris graduated from Auburn University with a Professional Degree in Architecture in 1984. He had been influenced at a young age by the historic house he lived in with his family, ultimately prompting him to pursue architecture.
Morris moved to the D.C. area after graduation and founded Morris-Day Architects and Builders soon after. He was well known for his distinctive home designs throughout the metro area, especially in Arlington and McLean.
Morris had been a member of Leadership Arlington and was considered a “bright light” at the organization. He is remembered for his sense of humor and for making people laugh, in addition to how he “worked to make the world a better place.” The organization considers his death a huge loss for the community.
“Rob was an incredibly creative individual and Leadership Arlington benefited from his creativity and from his engagement with his class,” said Leadership Arlington President and CEO Betsy Frantz. “He was always thinking about the next possibility and making the community the best it could be. He had a way of making things happen efficiently and effectively. We’re really going to miss him.”
Morris took his own life on December 29. Family members held a memorial service for him in Alabama last week. The local service for Robert Morris will be held at 2:00 p.m. on February 8 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean (1545 Chain Bridge Road).
Photo via Morris-Day Architects and Builders Facebook page
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.
Arlington Public Schools announced a plan to make up the days lost so far during the 2013-2014 school year.
Although technically there were three days off due to inclement weather — December 9 and 10 and January 3 — only January 3 needs to be made up. December 9 and 10 do not have to be made up because additional instructional hours were already built into the calendar.
The altered schedule only applies to elementary schools with Early Release, which includes Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional, Long Branch, Nottingham, Oakridge, Taylor and Tuckahoe. Because additional instructional hours had already been built in for middle schools, high schools and elementary schools with Limited Early Release, those schools do not have to make up the time. Limited Early Release elementary schools include Abingdon, Ashlawn, Barcroft, Barrett, Campbell, Carlin Springs, Claremont, Drew, Glebe, Henry, Hoffman-Boston, Jamestown, Key, McKinley and Randolph.
The following early release days will become full attendance days as part of the make-up:
Elementary Schools With Early Release
- Wednesday, February 19
- Wednesday, April 9
- Wednesday, April 30
The Stratford Program
- Tuesday, February 18
- Tuesday, April 8
- Tuesday, April 29
APS will adjust its schedule as necessary should any more days be lost this year.
Fisette Staying Out of Confederate Name Issue — Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said he has too much other business to worry about in the coming months to get involved with the request to remove the name “Jefferson Davis” from Arlington roads. Fisette says he’s sensitive to the reasons behind the request to remove the Confederate leader’s name, but the process for removal is laborious and has to go through the state. [Sun Gazette]
Burst Pipe at Reagan National Airport — Trader Joe’s in Clarendon certainly wasn’t the only business affected by a burst water pipe during Tuesday’s cold weather. Some pipes burst at Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon and flooded the area near the baggage claim terminals for American Airlines and United Airlines. [DCist]
Tomb Sentinels Brave Freezing Temps — Most people did what they could to bundle up and stay indoors yesterday, but members of The Old Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery are getting attention for braving the bitter cold. The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment posted a photo of one of the sentinels on its Facebook page and news organizations immediately spread the word. [WTOP, WUSA]
Flickr pool photo by @ddimick
In addition to the Arlington County Police Department, WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel says Transit Police were on the scene investigating the report of a suspicious male subject aboard an inbound train.
Few details are being released right now, but police scanner traffic first indicated the suspect may have lit WD-40 on fire inside the Ballston Metro station or inside a Metrorail car. Scanner traffic also indicates police are interviewing Metro employees at the East Falls Church station, where reports suggest the suspect may have gotten off the train.
Orange Line trains had been single tracking between Ballston and East Falls Church while police searched the station and the train, but the train in question has been released and was taken out of service. Normal service has resumed but some delays remain.
Photo courtesy @SRod17
For one day only, drivers parking in Arlington are getting a reprieve. Because the frigid temperatures are a danger to enforcement workers and because the weather is causing an increase in meter malfunctions, meters will not be enforced.
The Department of Environmental Services maintains the county’s meters and reports this week’s colder weather and last week’s freezing precipitation led to a higher than usual number of malfunctions on the multi-space meters that dispense tickets. An average day typically requires around 15 repairs throughout the county. However, there were 29 repairs last Thursday, 76 on Friday and 61 yesterday.
DES also has received a higher volume of calls to the broken meter hotline (703-228-3298). Instead of the usual 40 calls per day, 90 came in on Friday and 117 came in on Saturday and Monday. DES does not yet have a tally for today, but anticipates similar numbers.
The multi-space meters have a wireless connection that automatically informs DES of any malfunctions, but the department relies on phone calls for learning about problems with coin operated meters.
Although DES maintains the meters, members of the Arlington County Police Department take care of enforcement. In light of the issues today, the department decided to suspend meter enforcement.
“Enforcement has been suspended due to a combination of the extreme cold weather creating a danger to public service aides, and the growing number of malfunctioning meters,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “That’s just for today.”
Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) encourages residents to make a commitment to being better prepared for emergencies in 2014, perhaps even by making it a new year’s resolution.
OEM highlights the statewide Ready Virginia initiative and asks Arlington residents to join in the campaign by having a plan in case of emergencies.
“I believe we all have a role in emergency management by ensuring that we are prepared, that we have a plan and that we get involved,” said Arlington County Office of Emergency Management Director Jack Brown.
Families should devise an emergency plan and go over it together. All members of the family should understand crucial aspects of the plan such as where to meet if the family is separated. Post the plan in an easily viewed place, such as on the refrigerator. Answer the following questions when coming up with the plan:
- Do you and your family members have contact phone numbers memorized or written down and available in backpacks and wallets?
- Do you have a plan on how to meet up with family if you are separated?
- Do you know how to contact your children’s school in case of an emergency?
- Do you have three days of emergency supplies and water set aside?
The emergency kit should contain enough of the following items to last for three days:
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Non-perishable food and a can opener
- First aid kit and medications
- Pet supplies
Home isn’t the only place residents need to be prepared. OEM notes that emergencies can happen at work and in the car, so separate plans should be made for safety in those locations. For example, OEM spokesman John Crawford noted that during the Navy Yard shooting last year, some people were required to “shelter in place.” Many did not have adequate food, water or medications in their work area. In addition to those supplies, Crawford also recommends keeping a small flashlight, batteries and a battery operated cell phone charger at work.
Having emergency contact numbers written on a paper and kept in a purse or wallet can come in handy should a cell phone battery die.
“When the emergency comes, all our contact information is in our cell phones, a majority of phone numbers are there,” said Crawford. “If you lose the ability to get that information and your phone is dead, you can’t access emergency numbers.”
The current cold snap is another example of a situation when preparedness can be beneficial. Drivers should prepare for the possibility of becoming stranded by keeping plenty of gas in their vehicles and keeping cell phones charged. Have extra blankets and snacks in the car as well.
“Winter preparedness may be a little bit different from summer preparedness, but if you’re prepared for one emergency, you’re pretty much prepared for every emergency,” said Crawford. “In the Snowmageddon a couple years ago, people were stranded for hours on the GW Parkway. The lessons we learned from that is that people were not prepared. People needed water and food and they didn’t have it. They needed blankets and didn’t have it.”
One of the important factors about having preparedness plans is to practice them often so they become second nature. Not being well versed in all aspects of the plan could be dangerous in an emergency when stress could cause details to be forgotten.
“If you train enough in anything, and then the disaster comes, you won’t think twice about what you have to do,” Crawford said. “You’ll already know what to do.”
The Arlington Prepares mobile app can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. Residents can also sign up for Arlington Alert, which allows the county to contact you during an emergency by sending messages to your email or mobile device.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) The cold temperatures have a lot of people cranking up the heat, but that’s putting stress on the region’s power grid. Dominion Power is asking customers to reduce any unnecessary use of electricity and alter the hours for major appliance use.
Dominion is one of the power providers in the 13 states and District of Columbia that use the PJM Interconnect power grid. PJM informed all of its clients that the power grid is currently under stress because of the increase in electric heat use due to the frigid temperatures. It’s asking customers to help conserve energy.
“We are asking customers to consider altering their normal pattern of power usage to mitigate the draw that is on the electrical grid right now,” said Dominion Power spokesman Chuck Penn. “We are confident today, as we were yesterday, that we have sufficient power capacity to meet the demand, there are just some steps utilities are asking customers to take to ease the load. We are just responding to the request from PJM Interconnect.”
Customers are asked to avoid using major appliances — such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers — during the peak morning hours of 6:00-9:00 a.m. and the peak evening hours of 3:00-7:00 p.m. Customers are asked to lower their thermostats to between 65 and 70 degrees during the day in order to conserve energy. Dominion has additional energy saving tips on its website.
Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter in Courthouse (2049 15th Street N.) opened for around-the-clock services on Monday and will stay open, as a wind chill advisory remains in effect until 6:00 p.m. The shelter has been used by 75 people during the cold snap, and another 10 were provided with cots and blankets in the lobby of the nearby Detention Center. On Tuesday afternoon, DHS made the decision to keep the shelter open continuously on Wednesday as well.
“The good thing about this cold snap is that we had plenty of advance warning so we were able to let people know they needed to get off the streets and come inside,” said Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “A-SPAN did a great job of letting unsheltered homeless people in the community know that it was going to get really, really cold, and that we would have a warm bed for them.”
Arlington is one of the most LGBT-friendly places in the country, according to The Advocate. The county has come in at number 10 on the magazine’s list of “Gayest Cities in America.”
Although it may seem surprising that Arlington would be ranked above areas with larger gay populations, such as San Francisco and New York City, it might make more sense when considering the non-traditional scoring process. The list compilers even note they looked for “hidden factors that give a city its queer cred” and that “It’s not all piano bars, gender-specific music festivals, and giant disco houses.”
Arlington scored low in a number of categories such as “Lesbian couple-headed households” and “Mariah Carey concert dates” but picked up a point for having a nearby Gay Rodeo association. Arlington also picked up three points for having gay local elected officials and 0.1 points for having gay state elected officials.
Additionally, The Advocate noted that Arlington is home to “popular gay bar and brunch spot Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant and gay-popular divey beer bar Galaxy Hut.”
The top three regions on the magazine’s list were Washington, DC; Pasadena, CA; and Seattle, WA. The full list can be found on The Advocate’s website.
Image via Wikipedia
Two of Three Dem Candidates Endorse Streetcar — Two of the three Democratic candidates for County Board — Alan Howze and Peter Fallon — have voiced support for the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The third Democratic contender — Cord Thomas — has concerns about the proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Lack of Decal in Fairfax Affects Arlington — Eight years ago Fairfax County became the lone jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to abandon car tax decals, and Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary believes that’s costing Arlington $300,000. O’Leary said it’s too labor intensive to check every single vehicle parked in Arlington without a decal to determine if the vehicle is from Fairfax or if the owner didn’t pay Arlington taxes. [Sun Gazette]
Civic Leadership Program Deadline Extended — Arlington County has extended the deadline for residents interested in signing up for the eight week Neighborhood College program. Participants will learn communication and influencing skills, how to organize for action and how to give and receive feedback, among other things. The deadline to sign up for the free series is now January 10, and classes begin February 13. [Arlington County]
Police Officer Profiled — A member of the Arlington County Police Department — Capt. Kamran Afzal — has been profiled in Asian Fortune. The Pakistani American studied economics in college before turning to a life in law enforcement. He has been with the department for 20 years. [Asian Fortune]
Christmas Tree Collection Begins — County workers began collecting discarded Christmas trees yesterday. The trees are collected curbside until January 17 and will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
A number of vehicles in Pentagon City were discovered with their tires slashed on New Year’s Day.
According to police, an unknown vandal or vandals slashed tires on six vehicles in the 400 block of Army Navy Drive between 5:00 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. on Wednesday. There is no suspect description.
This is the latest in a string of tire slashing sprees that has plagued Arlington over the past several months. Hall’s Hill was hit twice, first in November when 36 vehicles were affected and again in December when 40 cars were vandalized. In July, police investigated a string of slashed tire incidents on 16 vehicles — mostly Toyota Priuses — in the Cherrydale, Waverly Hills and Barcroft Park neighborhoods. About two weeks later, in August, 10 vehicle owners found their tires slashed in the Arlington View neighborhood.
Thus far, police have not arrested any suspects in any of the tire slashing incidents.
Anyone who may have seen suspicious activity or who may have information about the vandalism incidents is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 703-558-2222.
It appears Sultana Grill (5515 Wilson Blvd.) in the Bluemont neighborhood has closed down.
The restaurant had been open for a little more than a year. The restaurant’s phone number seems to be disconnected, based on the automated message ARLnow.com received when attempting to call.
A tipster who reported enjoying the restaurant’s Moroccan food said he asked what happened and restaurant staff reported the business had been hurt by the lack of having an alcohol license.
The tipster also was told that a hookah bar might open in the space.
Hat tip to Eric LaKuch
Campaign to Remove Confederate Name from Roads — An Alcova Heights resident has asked county officials to remove the name “Jefferson Davis” from Arlington roadways. He says its tie to slavery and segregation is offensive. County officials, however, point out that the removal process is complicated and would require state approval. [Sun Gazette]
Will Board Candidates Support the Streetcar? — There are questions regarding what will happen to the Columbia Pike streetcar project now that one of its biggest supporters — Chris Zimmerman — is stepping down from the Arlington County Board. So far, no candidates vying for his spot have come forward as outright supporters of the project, although two — independent John Vihstadt and Libertarian Evan Bernick — have voiced opposition to it. [Greater Greater Washington]
Rosslyn: The Brooklyn of Washington — Ghosts of DC posted a throwback advertisement from 1889, which claims Rosslyn is the “Brooklyn of Washington.” [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
The Arlington County government will still open on time. Federal government employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework today.
The Arlington County Office of Emergency Management reports that trees and wires came down around the county during the overnight hours. Crews are currently on the scene of a large tree and wires down in the roadway at S. 23rd Street between S. Kent Street and S. Lynn Street. The road will be closed until the obstruction is safely removed. The incident has knocked out power to more than 500 homes, according to Dominion Power.
A number of roads, including some main arteries such as Washington Blvd. (pictured above), are covered in a layer of frozen slush because of the frigid temperatures following the storm. The Department of Environmental Services reports the county’s roads were not pre-treated yesterday because the forecast called for rain, to be followed by some snow.
“If we pre-treated the streets, the salt or brine would have been washed away and ineffective. Of course, the weather changed on us and snow came earlier and the temperature dropped sooner,” said DES Spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman. “Despite the change, WSS (Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau) has had 21 trucks out spreading salt since midnight. We were able to get some trucks on the roads treating high elevations and bridges around 9 p.m. (Thursday) when the snow started earlier than expected. They have been on primary (red) and secondary (blue) streets as well as the school routes (green). Many residential streets were also treated.”
More resources about the county’s snow response and any alerts can be found on the Arlington Snow & Ice Central website.