Join Club

County legislative priorities include more speed cameras, more funding for prosecutions

Arlington County courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Widespread speed cameras and more funding for prosecutors are two emerging priorities for Arlington County during the upcoming legislative session.

The Arlington County Board got a first look at its legislative priorities during a meeting last night (Tuesday). They cover a range of topics, from funding for improving public transportation to tackling the behavioral health crisis crippling Arlington and the state.

The new priorities come one week after elections for both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats retained control of the Virginia State Senate and obtained a slim majority in the House of Delegates, previously controlled by Republicans. Still, policymakers — who will meet with the Board on Tuesday, Nov. 28 to discuss their priorities — will have to contend with a divided government, as the GOP controls the executive branch.

Going into the session, which begins Jan. 10, 2024, Arlington County is looking to state legislators to introduce bills granting local authority for automated speed enforcement beyond work and school zones, per a county report.

More speed cameras are part of the county’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes, as well as a recommended way to reduce potentially adverse interactions between officers and civilians during traffic stops. In January 2022, the County Board approved their installation in school and work areas to reduce speed-related crashes in these areas.

Since then, however, the process of installing these cameras in these zones has stalled. In March, Police Chief Andy Penn said a contract could be ready this spring but, nine months later, police and Vision Zero Coordinator Christine Baker told ARLnow this week that the contract is still in the “procurement” phase and tied up in negotiations.

Moving from the streets to the county courthouse, Arlington County says it would like legislation to “ensure there is adequate funding for the prosecution of misdemeanors, civil duties, and the creation of diversion services.”

This responds to several issues that have arisen within the local criminal-legal system and others across the state, with the introduction of body-worn cameras, contracted staffing levels and mounting pressure for programs diverting from jail people who commit nuisance crimes or have an addiction or serious mental illnesses.

“The work of prosecution has changed considerably over the past years, and arguably decades, and in some respects, our office has failed to keep pace or appropriately adjust expectations about the services our office could reasonably provide with limited resources,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said in a 2020 memo to County Manager Mark Schwartz.

Reviewing body-worn camera footage, for instance, became a deciding factor for Dehghani-Tafti to pull prosecutors from jailable misdemeanor offenses such as driving without a valid operator’s license, driving on a suspended license, reckless speeding and numerous registration offenses.

In the memo to Schwartz, the top prosecutor said she did not come to this decision lightly. Rather, she first sought counsel from a state agency that trains prosecutors and the Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel. Both said prosecutors would need to review thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage to meet their obligations to share all exculpating or incriminating evidence.

“Unfortunately, at present we have neither the staff nor resources to review, process and disclose camera footage and other evidence from 40,000 cases,” Dehghani-Tafti said in the memo.

To that end, Arlington County says it is also wants to see state funding for additional positions to review body-worn camera footage “to increase transparency and accountability with law enforcement.”

“Additional staff in the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Public Defender’s Office are all critical to effectively implement Body Worn Camera programs,” the report said.

Increased funding for prosecuting comes as a state watchdog, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), says Virginia needs 112 more prosecutors — in addition to those needed to fill the 6.5% vacancy rate — to handle current case levels.

Like Dehghani-Tafti, JLARC attributes this to more body camera footage to review as well as the need to consider a defendant’s social media posts and mental health issues.

It also notes, however, that a dearth of defense attorneys who take on indigent clients is crippling courtroom procedures. This has worsened in the last two years in large part because prosecutors get more supplemental funding from localities than defense attorneys.

As for diversion program funding, Arlington County already has a series of programs. Dehghani-Tafti and Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood say some of these programs — like drug court — are successful but others are floundering without sufficient staff.

For instance, one program that diverts court-involved adults with serious mental illnesses from jail was put on pause after the one person overseeing it left because her workload was unsustainable. Both Dehghani-Tafti and Haywood have advocated to the county for funding to avoid this situation in the future.

Recent Stories

A large explosion, heard throughout Arlington, has rocked the Bluemont neighborhood after a police standoff.

Good Monday 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…

Arlington County will kick off the New Year with the next phase of engagement on its forthcoming plan to manage its deer population. A study found two years ago that…

After 64 years of serving subs and pizza in Arlington, The Broiler has expanded into Maryland, per the company’s social media accounts. The long-time eatery, a local institution that opened…

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.

Key Responsibilities:

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.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

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!

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Holiday Art Show

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

Live Standup Comedy Starring Casey James Salengo (Jimmy Kimmel Live,…

Standup Comedy Starring Casey James Salengo (Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live)

Friday, December 29

Headliner: Casey James Salengo

Casey James Salengo is a NYC-based comedian who’s been featured on Comedy Central Presents, Jimmy Kimmel Live, This Week at the Cellar,


Subscribe to our mailing list