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Arlington police turn to state troopers for help with nightlife detail

Virginia State Police vehicle (photo by John Calhoun/JC Photography)

As its police force shrinks, the Arlington County Police Department is leaning on state police when extra officers are needed to maintain its nightlife detail.

Virginia State Police troopers will be helping Arlington fill staffing holes in the local nightlife team that works with bars and restaurants in Clarendon and Crystal City to keep establishments and patrons safe and to help keep order when things get out of hand.

The number of acting police officers available to staff ACPD’s various divisions has dropped amid retirements, reports of low morale, and attrition to more lucrative and less demanding private-industry jobs. In response, ACPD has turned to VSP troopers who are willing to help out with the nightlife detail, according to the county.

This past weekend the County Board approved a mutual aid agreement between the two forces that codifies compensation for troopers.

The agreement will help keep staffing for the detail steady, not add to it, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

“The overall staffing for the Nightlife detail is remaining the same,” she said via email, adding that ACPD does not disclose the specific number of officers. “The MOU with [VSP] provides ACPD the option of utilizing troopers to fill vacancies in the Nightlife detail, when necessary. The department began exploring additional staffing resources for the Nightlife detail in September 2021 due to a reduction in ACPD’s functional staffing.”

As part of the memorandum, troopers will be reimbursed at an overtime rate for their hours worked as well as for vehicle mileage. The county will also pay a 10% fee to VSP for “administrative and accounting costs associated with the provided services,” the report said.

The detail patrols spots in Clarendon and Crystal City as part of the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), which was founded in 2016 to tackle alcohol-related crimes in Clarendon and has since expanded to Crystal City.

Through ARI — in which police patrol area bars, train employees and meet with businesses — Clarendon’s crime rates have dropped, according to the county. The detail also looks out for misbehaving bar patrons, who can be banned from all establishments that participate in Arlington’s Bar Safe program as a result of public drunkenness or more serious crimes.

Between January and September, there have been 32 Bar Safe violations, according to Arlington police data. Rates peaked in the summer, when bars fully reopened, as did the number of fake IDs. The detail confiscated 572 fake IDs during the same time period.

While many alcohol-related crimes dropped from 2019 to 2020 due to COVID-related business closures, the detail has noticed the nightlife crowd increasing every month since the state reopened, according to a monthly police report.

With that, new safety problems have arisen: last month, there were six reports of spiked drink in Clarendon and Crystal City bars.

The collaboration between ACPD and VSP was not the only agreement that received County Board approval. On Saturday, the Board approved a mutual aid agreement with U.S. Capitol Police after 50 Arlington officers helped secure the U.S. Capitol building during the “Justice for J6” rally this fall.

The rally on Sept. 18. was held in support of those charged after the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a large pro-Trump mob. It was widely reported as a flop that did not draw the expected crowds while still costing government agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The county says both of these mutual aid agreements exemplify ACPD’s commitment to regional partnerships.

“The Police Department is an active member, throughout the region, in providing mutual aid assistance,” a county staff report said. “This effort allows for the appropriate utilization of resources both within and outside of the County. Our commitment to regional partnerships greatly enhances the safety and well-being of the citizenry.”

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