Amid community pressure, Arlington County is taking a closer look at ways to improve safety in Green Valley.
Some residents are pushing for more action from the county on two fronts: dealing with nuisances and more actively policing criminal activity. In response to the mounting concerns, an internal county workgroup is beginning to meet this week to find ways to do just that.
The nuisances are related to drinking and smoking as well as public urination and loud music associated with some of the people who hang out around the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square, neighbors tell ARLnow. The criminal issues relate to gun violence, which some neighbors tie to the unaddressed open-air substance use.
Throughout the day, people can be seen hanging out in the area. Yesterday (Tuesday), for instance, ARLnow observed a handful of people sitting in folding chairs outside of The Shelton, an affordable housing building, while two other groups were congregated in the town square, talking and listening to music.
Neighbors, including Yordanos Woldai, say they don’t have an issue with people hanging out. They just want people not to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana outdoors, urinate in public or play music during quiet hours.
“Having lived in Arlington for such a long time, I am not aware of any other residential neighborhood where this conduct is allowed to happen in plain sight and not be addressed by the police,” Woldai tells ARLnow. “Children have to walk on the streets at times because there is no way to pass and there are broken beer bottles on sidewalks and grass.”
A few of the people hanging out told ARLnow that nearly everyone on the square yesterday likely came from outside Green Valley to this area to be together. Many grew up in the neighborhood but have since moved away.
One man, who appeared to be drinking beer from a plastic cup, put his hand out close to the ground and raised it up slowly to show how much of early childhood, marked in growth spurts, he spent in the neighborhood.
“They feel they are very much part of the community,” Woldai said. “I love the idea that people come to Green Valley to connect with old friends… It’s the illegal activities that are bothersome.”
Woldai addressed the Arlington County Board on Saturday about her concerns and said she had the support of 37 neighbors. This includes Lily Bozhanova, a Bulgarian immigrant who has lived in the area for five years with her family.
“My children are 5 and 7-year-olds. We often go to the spray park there and I sometimes have to explain to my children why they see people smoke or drink plein air. It’s not good but they see it every day and it’s a deterrent for going in the area,” she told ARLnow.
Bozhanova says she tries to avoid the area in the evening and lately Googled whether bullets can pass through brick.
“I shouldn’t be looking up to see whether my house can sustain gunshots. Brick is relatively safe, by the way,” she said.
Although she is grateful for the life she has built, she says, “it’s not exactly the American Dream we were trying to achieve moving here.”
“That’s the story about the life we live here,” he said.
Still, he said he cannot move away because it will be hard to find space in another low-income apartment building. He says he does what he can to promote safety in part by volunteering as a crossing guard for Drew Elementary School students.
Woldai ties the shootings to the nuisance issues.
“When people know there isn’t really a police presence in a neighborhood where you can drink and smoke marijuana, it attracts more serious crimes,” she said. “That has been a serious concern for residents living near the town square.”
In response, affordable housing developer AHC Inc. installed brighter — and additional — exterior lights outside The Shelton, including on the roof and added new, upgraded cameras outside and inside The Shelton, says AHC spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.
It is doubling the cameras at The Macedonian (2229 Shirlington Road) across the street to 26 cameras.
It also increased the number of days it retains security camera footage from 20 to 30 day and is moving to an encrypted, “more secure fob system” at The Macedonian and The Shelton, she said.
“AHC has offered space for a police substation across the street from The Shelton, at The Macedonian,” Smith said. “Since last summer, AHC has offered a rent-free unit to an ACPD officer — and the offer still stands.”
The police department is still considering the offer to establish — essentially — a Green Valley substation, Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said, adding that patrol officers remain available 24/7 to respond to calls for service.
“The Police Department continues to work collaboratively with the Green Valley Civic Association, AHC Inc., informal community leaders and other external/internal stakeholders to ensure the safety of the Green Valley neighborhood and to address crime and quality of life concerns in the area,” she said.
“As part of these efforts, officers have conducted extra patrols in the area and shared crime prevention and education information,” she continued. “These efforts are ongoing and we remain committed to working collaboratively to identify solutions to ensure public safety.”
Community members in need of police services should call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency, she said.
On Saturday, during the Arlington County Board meeting, County Manager Schwartz said police response times in Green Valley are on par with response times throughout the county and, with 15% of job positions unfilled within ACPD, adding patrols would be a lift but remains an option.
Schwartz said he would also have a few recommendations for new technology, like gunshot detection, in about a month.
Board members stressed that the county has to do something while not trampling on what makes Green Valley distinct.
“Outdoor living is a hallmark trade of the Green Valley community — it’s something very special to Green Valley, even more than other places in Arlington. The new town square was designed to accommodate this social living,” said Board Member Takis Karantonis.
Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Vice-Chair Libby Garvey said any action will have to consider disparate views on how to improve safety, though they did not say what these differences are.
“I’m really pleased to hear there is a group coming together. It does sound like there are some splits in the community and we need to deal with that,” Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey said.
Despite these differences, Dorsey stressed that the county’s “response can’t be to do nothing.”
“We have to figure out how to reconcile all those disparate views and utilize our best practices and technology utilization policing and community participation to figure out how to fix this because it’s gotta be fixed,” he said.
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
After a 2-year search for new digs, Arlington Independent Media is on the cusp of moving from its long-time headquarters in Clarendon.
Former Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos is taking a top job in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. Stamos lost her reelection bid in 2019, defeated in the Democratic primary by…
Sometime next year, three residential streets in Arlington without sidewalks could get upgrades to allow for safer pedestrian and cyclist use. To help address demonstrated safety and access issues on…
About Latinas Leading Tomorrow (LLT): Latinas Leading Tomorrow is a dynamic 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young Latina women through education, mentorship, and leadership development. We are committed to fostering a community of future leaders who will make a significant impact to the community.
Job Description: We are seeking a passionate and dedicated Part-time Executive Director to lead our organization into its next phase of growth and impact. The ideal candidate will be a visionary leader who can oversee day-to-day operations, drive fundraising efforts, and cultivate relationships with stakeholders. This is a 1099 position; Remote position with ability to attend DMV events; 8-10 hours a week; $35-40/per hour.
Oversee program operations, including educational and community initiatives.
Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, maintaining trust and accountability.
Develop and execute a strategic vision aligned with our mission and values.
Lead fundraising efforts in partnership with the Board Members.
Cultivate relationships with community partners, schools, educators, and donors.
Demonstrate strong leadership skills, fostering a positive organizational culture.
Communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders and make compelling public presentations.
Promote inclusivity and collaboration throughout the organization.
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to