School Boundary ‘Refinements’ Approved, Parents Peeved — The Arlington School Board on Thursday approved a series of small “refinements” to elementary school boundaries in North Arlington by a 3-1 vote. The changes will impact a few dozen current McKinley and Tuckahoe elementary students over the next two school years, transferring those students to other nearby schools. Several parents whose kids are affected have contacted ARLnow.com, calling the process and subsequent decision “short sighted,” “pointless” and “a sham.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Big, Tire-Eating Pothole on Wilson Blvd — An Arlington resident says he got a flat tire after driving over a monster pothole in the left-hand lane of westbound Wilson Blvd at N. Patrick Henry Drive. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services responded to the man’s tweet, saying repair crews have been notified. [Twitter]
ACPD Assists with Bust of Diner Owner — The owner of a popular Baltimore diner has been arrested in a cocaine sting that Arlington County police helped to arrange. Prosecutors say Anthony Vasiliades, owner of the Sip & Bite diner, which was featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” tried to buy $50,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover Arlington detective. [Baltimore Sun]
Casting Call for Arlington Cyclists — More than 50 people have signed up for a casting call for a promotional campaign that will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” The casting call for the county-sponsored campaign, which will feature six short documentary films, ends today. [Modacity, Twitter]
County Planning Effort Launches — The Arlington County and School Boards have jointly appointed a 24-member “Facilities Study Committee” that is tasked with building “a consensus framework regarding the community’s future funding and facility needs.” The launch of the committee comes as Arlington Public Schools faces push back from residents as it tries to find county-owned land on which to build badly-needed new schools. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Brendan
Arlington Loses Lowest Unemployment Crown — Arlington’s years-long streak of having the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia has ended. In November Falls Church had the lowest jobless rate, at 3 percent, to 3.1 percent for Arlington. Statewide, Virginia’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8 percent in October to 4.5 percent in November. [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking — Arlington resident Anthony Tatum, 36, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and other related crimes, according to federal prosecutors.Tatum and a co-conspirator were accused of distributing cocaine and heroin, primarily in Maryland. Tatum, who agreed to forfeit $108 million in cash, vehicles, jewelry and other items, reportedly lived in a Pentagon City apartment building. [Patch]
Pinkberry to Close? — The future of Arlington’s Pinkberry frozen yogurt store is uncertain. The local Pinkberry franchisee has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. The franchisee, which has stores in D.C., National Harbor, Clarendon and elsewhere in Northern Virginia, cited debts of more than $1.2 million in the filing. Those debts include $44,121 in back taxes owed to Arlington County. [Washington Business Journal]
Wardian Sets New Record — Arlington resident Michael Wardian, 40, has set a new world record for the fastest indoor 50K. Wardian covered the distance in 3:06:07 at a 200-meter indoor track in Hagerstown, Md. That shatters his former world record, of 3:12:13, set at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington. [Herald-Mail]
Arlington Native Releases Music Video — Arlington-born rapper C-Luv has released a new music video for his track “Grind.” The video features scenes shot around Arlington, including in a skatepark, Wakefield High School and in the Nauck neighborhood. [YouTube - NSFW]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Update at 6:30 p.m.: Investigators have determined that the substances found in the apartment were cleaning supplies and chemicals such as acetone, police spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm told ARLnow.com. The substances were held in “weird containers,” for reasons unknown. Hazmat teams have cleared the scene.
Earlier: Police and the Arlington County hazmat team are investigating a possible drug lab found in a Crystal City apartment.
Arlington County Police, Virginia State Police and the hazmat team were called to the Crystal Square Apartments (1515 Jefferson Davis Highway) this afternoon after the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office found “suspicious items” and substances in an apartment during an eviction. The items include laboratory equipment like respirators, scales and beakers, according to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm.
The hazmat team is performing tests on the items to determine what they are and if they’re hazardous. While the equipment may be for some sort of drug lab, it’s not suspected to be a meth lab, which would have prompted evacuations. So far, the building has not been evacuated, Malcolm said.
There have been no reports of any health problems in the apartment building nor of any arrests made by police. Police have closed a portion of 15th Street S. near the scene as the investigation continues.
Prosecutors say police began investigating Ogregory Hamilton after receiving a tip that the firefighter was dealing drugs. Earlier this year, police also received a tip that the Dumfries resident intended to sell cocaine near Carpool in Ballston on April 17. Detectives staked out the area and observed Hamilton arrive and park at the designated spot for the planned deal.
Police ended up detaining Hamilton and found cocaine inside the trunk during a search of his vehicle, according to a statement of facts entered as part of the plea. Police also searched his home and found a digital scale and baggies commonly used for packaging drugs. The baggies reportedly also had a white, powdery residue that appeared to be cocaine.
There is no indication that Hamilton dealt cocaine on county time or used any county resources to carry out any transactions, according to prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to a lower charge of cocaine possession earlier this month.
Hamilton’s sentencing is set for January 30, 2015.
Dr. Derron McRae Simon, who ran the WithinMe MD medical clinic at 5275 Lee Hwy in Arlington, has been indicted on charges that he ran an oxycodone distribution ring.
Starting in February 2013, federal prosecutors say Simon and five co-conspirators wrote, filled and sold fraudulent prescriptions for more than 11,000 oxycodone pills and “other controlled substances.” The pills had a total value of nearly $750,000 and Simon sold the prescriptions for between $500 and $1,000, according to prosecutors.
“Simon allegedly wrote and sold hundreds of prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances, despite knowing that the individuals in whose names the prescriptions were written were abusing, misusing, distributing, and/or selling the drugs,” according to a press release. “Simon allegedly had never met many of these purported patients, and he also wrote prescriptions in the names of his five co-conspirators, as well as friends, relatives, and fictitious individuals.”
Simon, 45, is listed as a Midlothian, Va. resident. Among the co-conspirators named by prosecutors is Arlington resident Linda Dao, 21, and Falls Church residents Ereida Escobar, 23, and Michael Harris, 21. They are charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances.
“According to the indictment, Simon directed Escobar, a receptionist and medical assistant at Simon’s practice, to confirm calls from pharmacists seeking to verify his oxycodone prescriptions,” the press release said. “Simon also allegedly directed Escobar to create fraudulent patient history forms and medical records to make it appear that these individuals were actually legitimate patients.”
The FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.
All six suspects are facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine if convicted on the conspiracy or possession charges. Simon faces an addition one to 40 years in prison if convicted on three separate charges of distributing a controlled substance to persons under the age of 21. Simon and another conspirator are also charged with identity fraud.
Yelp reviews for the WithinMe clinic — which specialized in weight loss and hormone therapy — were not complimentary, especially after the clinic closed.
“I think they went out of business,” one reviewer said. “I have no idea what is going on. No one is answering the phones and the vm is full without even an answering machine introduction”
“If I could give no stars I would,” said another reviewer. “I purchased a groupon and had an appointment on June 23rd – I still have not recieved [sic] the B-12 shots.”
Photo via Google Maps
‘Most Clarendon Craigslist Ad Ever’ — Is this listing for rooms in a house in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, which starts out with the greeting “Whasup Craiglist,” the “most Clarendon Craigslist ad ever,” as our tipster puts it? According to the listing, two people are leaving the four-person house and the remaining residents “are looking for new members [to add] to our wolfpack.” [Craigslist, Twitter]
Arlington Is 2nd Most Affordable for Car Insurance — A website says Arlington has the second most-affordable car insurance in the country. The ranking is based on the average insurance rate for a Ford F-150 as a percentage of the county’s median income. [Nerd Wallet]
SpringFest in Shirlington Tomorrow — Campbell Avenue in Shirlington will be closed to traffic tomorrow (Saturday) for the first annual Mid-Atlantic SpringFest beer festival. It costs $30 for tickets to sample the festival’s brews, which are being provided by more than 45 breweries. [Capitol City Brewing]
Summer Opening Eyed for Silver Line — After a series of delays, Metro is hoping to open the first phase of the Silver Line at some point this summer. [Reston Now]
ACPD Participating in Prescription Drug Take-Back — From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday), Arlington County Police will participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Those who have expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs lying around can bring them to one of three Arlington fire stations to have the medication safely disposed of, no questions asked. [Arlington County]
“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…)
Arlington Tests ‘Drug Court’ — Arlington is testing out a “drug court,” a program that allows non-violent felons with drug addictions to have their offenses expunged if they successfully break their addiction and stay away from crime. The program is closely overseen by a circuit court judge. [Sun Gazette]
W-L Sets Ambitious AP-IB Goal — Washington-Lee High School has set an “exceptionally ambitious” goal of every graduating senior next spring having taken at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class. [Washington Post]
Arlington Cyclist Struck in Vienna — An Arlington bicyclist on the W&OD Trail was struck by a car in Vienna on Friday evening. The man did not appear to be seriously injured. [FABB Blog]
Between the successful ballot initiatives that legalized casual marijuana use in Colorado and Washington state, and the news that a seven-year-old child is among those legally using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it might seem like American society is moving toward a more permissive attitude toward pot.
That’s exactly what Arlington’s READY Coalition is trying to fight.
The group — whose name stands for Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol and Drug Use by Youth — will be holding a “town hall meeting” this week called Marijuana in Arlington: What’s the Big Deal? The event will seek to remind teens that marijuana can be harmful.
“In the most recent surveys from Arlington teens we see a disturbing decrease in perceptions of harm regarding marijuana and increasing numbers of teens saying they have used marijuana,” the READY Coalition said in a press advisory. “This forum provides a dialogue about a subject that is typically underrepresented in our community. It will explore some of the dangerous consequences of teenage marijuana use.”
The town hall will feature a panel that includes an Emergency Room doctor from INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a scientist from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an Arlington County police officer, and a “young man with extensive experience with marijuana use in Northern Virginia.” The event will be held at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29.
A 2010 survey found that nearly half of all Arlington 12th graders had, at some point, used marijuana, while just over 1 in 4 had used marijuana in the past 30 days.
Stations will be set up throughout the country and right here in Arlington for residents to turn in any expired and unused medications. In addition to preventing drug abuse and theft, the initiative helps to prevent drugs from being disposed of improperly, such as being flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash.
The Drug Enforcement Administration runs the program, in cooperation with local officials. During the last such event in April, residents around the country turned in a record breaking 276 tons of unwanted drugs.
“While a uniform system for prescription drug disposal is being finalized, we will continue to sponsor these important take-back opportunities as a service to our communities,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a statement. “Our take-back events highlight the problems related to prescription drug abuse and give our citizens an opportunity to contribute to the solution. These events are only made possible through the dedicated work and commitment of our state, federal, local, and tribal partners and DEA thanks each and every one of them for their efforts on behalf of the American people.”
The disposal service is free and there are no questions asked.
The following Arlington locations will participate in the drug take-back from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. on Saturday:
- Arlington Fire Station #1, 500 S. Glebe Road
- Arlington Fire Station #8, 4845 Lee Highway
- Arlington Fire Station #9, 1900 S. Walter Reed Drive
- Pentagon Parking Lot, 551 Army Navy Drive
The following two locations will not operate on Saturday. Instead, they will be open from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. on Friday, September 28:
- Arlington Hall Station Building 1, 111 S. George Mason Drive
- Ft. Myer Commissary, 523 MacArthur Circle
Citizen Feedback on Streetcar Mostly Negative – The Washington Post counted all 270 citizen comments received by the Pike Transit Initiative regarding the planned Columbia Pike streetcar. Of the comments, 78 were “pro-streetcar,” 86 supported additional bus service instead of the streetcar, and 59 wanted no streetcar or no change. Our poll, conducted last week, found that 50 percent of respondents preferred the streetcar while 34 percent wanted articulated buses instead and 16 percent wanted no change. [Washington Post]
Arlington May Get ‘Drug Court’ – Arlington is seeking state approval to establish a “drug court.” The court would provide an alternative for dealing with nonviolent drug offenders. “It will help people who are in dire need of substance-abuse services, and will cut down on incarceration for folks who have substance-abuse issues only,” according to a supporter in the local Office of the Public Defender. [Sun Gazette]
A-SPAN Handing Out Water Bottles– Today the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) will embark on a “day of outreach” to determine the needs of the homeless living throughout Arlington. In addition to visiting the homeless where they live — areas including “Crystal City, National Airport, Rosslyn, and the wooded area near the Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island” — A-SPAN volunteers will be handing out more than 1,300 bottles of water, a gift from Ashlawn Elementary Students.
‘Sister Mary Ignatius’ Reviewed – Theater critic Terry Ponick takes a look at the American Century Theater production of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. The one-act play is being performed at Gunston Theatre II (2700 S. Lang Street) through July 7. [Washington Times]
Flickr pool photo by Divaknevil
Route 1 Streetcar Compromise? – Arlington and Alexandria officials are considering a compromise that could end their reported impasse over the planned Route 1 streetcar project. Under the compromise, the streetcar line that starts in Crystal City would end at the new Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria, instead of at the Braddock Road Metro station, as originally proposed. [Connection Newspapers]
Cocaine Trafficking Ring Busted — Twenty-eight individuals have been arrested and charged with operating a cocaine trafficking ring in Northern Virginia. Five of those arrested are said to be Arlington residents. The Arlington County Police Department and other local agencies assisted the FBI in the investigation. [U.S. Attorney's Office]
Expired and unwanted prescriptions can be brought to sites throughout the county to prevent drug abuse and theft. It’s also an effort to prevent hazards from the improper disposal of these drugs, such as in the trash or flushing down a toilet. The service is free and there are no questions asked.
There are several sites throughout Arlington collecting the drugs from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., in addition to those announced by the Arlington County Police Department last week. Here is the full list:
- Arlington Fire Station #1, 500 S. Glebe Road
- Arlington Fire Station #8, 4845 Lee Highway
- Arlington Fire Station #9, 1900 S. Walter Reed Drive
- Pentagon parking lot, 551 Army Navy Drive
- Ft. Myer Post Exchange, 104 McNair Road
The following site will be operating on Friday, from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. It will not hold hours on Saturday:
- Arlington Hall Station Building 1, 111 S. George Mason Drive
The Gangs of Arlington — As of 2011 there were 10 active street gangs in Arlington. According to a speaker at a panel discussion held earlier this week, the gangs often try to recruit youths who have recently immigrated to the country. Arlington, however, has an extensive gang prevention program that limits the influence of gangs within the county. [Washington Examiner]
National Drug Take-Back Day — The Arlington County Police Department will be participating in National Drug Take-Back Day next weekend. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, police will be collecting “expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs” — no questions asked — in an effort to prevent possible abuse and theft. Collection stations will be set up at fire stations 1, 8 and 9. [Arlington County Police]
Earth Day Twitter Chat Today — The Arlington County Department of Environmental Services is hosting a live Twitter chat on the topic of “green gardening” from noon to 1:00 p.m. today. “Join us and get answers to all of your questions related to landscaping and lawn care, native plants, and water conservation,” the county said in an email. One participant who submits a question will be randomly selected to receive a free rain barrel. [Facebook, Twitter]
This week’s Arlington County crime report includes several cases that may serve as important lessons for criminals. For instance, if you’re going to (allegedly) shoplift from The Gap, leave the 16 bags of cocaine at home.
POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE (COCAINE), 02/10/12, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street. At 3:15 pm on February 10, a subject entered The Gap clothing store and placed items in a bag and left the store without paying. Store security detained the suspect for shoplifting. Upon arrival of officers, a further search of the suspect was conducted and a sandwich bag with 16 smaller bags of cocaine were located. Andreus Womack, 19, of Washington, D.C. was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute and petit larceny.
Also, if you’re going to (allegedly) steal a car, do so before getting drunk.
GRAND LARCENY OF AUTO (RECOVERED), 02/14/12, 300 block of S. 23rd Street. At 2:50 am on February 14, officers spotted a stolen vehicle that was being driven erratically and activated the emergency lights. The driver attempted to speed away, but struck a concrete column and fled the scene on foot through a parking garage. Officers apprehended Joseph Bennett, 45, of no fixed address, and he was charged with grand larceny of an auto, driving under the influence, hit and run, refusal and driving on a suspended license.
Finally, if you’re going to (allegedly) try to stab a CVS employee with scissors, make sure you have a better getaway vehicle than Metro.
ATTEMPTED MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 02/12/12, 2100 block of N. 15th Street. On February 12 at approximately 5:30 pm, a suspect entered a store and tried to stab a store employee with a pair of scissors after being asked to leave. The suspect was located by officers in the Metro station, refused to obey police commands and continuously attempted to assault the arresting officers. A credit card and cell phone not belonging to the suspect were located during a search. Dana Brown, 28, of Landover, MD was charged with with assault and attempted malicious wounding.
As always, all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. The rest of this week’s crime report, after the jump.