It’s easy to walk past the Arlington County Detention Facility without realizing the high-rise with reflective windows is a jail.
Nestled between office buildings and apartment towers, the 12-story building at 1435 N. Courthouse Road, just a block from the Courthouse Metro station, houses nearly 500 male and female inmates.
On a recent tour of the facility, assistant operations director Capt. Jimmie Barrett Jr. said the jail offers more than 100 therapeutic and recreational programs to minimize disruptions and reinforce positive behavior.
“This is what jail is,” he said as he walked ARLnow through quiet cell blocks. “It’s not a lot of loud screaming or yelling. It’s about creating some structure to help people go on with life.”
Sessions on addiction, foreign languages and money management are among the program offerings, and quilting is one of the most popular activities for men and women alike. Started about two years ago by a jail employee who quilts in her free time, the sessions are now held three times per week.
“It started as a small group of women and expanded. Now the men are doing it, too,” Barrett said.
The inmates make baby blanket-sized quilts on the jail’s sewing machines, using donated materials. Many of the quilts are given to the local nonprofit Borromeo Housing Inc., which aids homeless young mothers and their children.
“It’s like a photograph. It’s something you can keep forever,” one female inmate said about the quilts she made. “It’s homemade, and I’m really sentimental.”
The inmate, a 22-year-old Arlington native charged with credit card fraud, said she planned on continuing to quilt once she leaves her current cell block of 41 women.
As of Friday, the jail built in 1994 housed 410 men and 58 women, for a total of 468 people. Inmates include people awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing and those sentenced to 12 months or less.
“I almost asked for a couple of extra days I haven’t been able to catch up on my reading like that in YEARS!!” an apparent ex-inmate wrote in October.
The jail includes a full legal library, with rows of hardcover tomes. Inmates increasingly prefer to use the online tool LexisNexis to learn about laws and their rights, corrections analyst Cristen Bowers said. Librarians there try to get inmates the reading material they want.
“If they request a book and we don’t have it, we’ll get it from another library,” Bowers said.
Inmates stay in single- or double-occupancy cells with an early wakeup time. Breakfast is served about 5:30 a.m., and then guards inspect inmates’ cells about 7:30 a.m. Lunch is served about 11 a.m., and guards conduct surveillance walk-throughs every 30 minutes. Dinner is served about 4:30 p.m., and lights out is at 11:30 p.m.
Inmates are allowed two 20-minute visits twice a week, not including meetings with lawyers.
With the exception of maximum security units on the building’s 11th floor, inmates are allowed to attend programs based on their compliance to jail rules. Inmates who break rules can be placed in solitary cells for “disciplinary segregation,” Barrett said. Those who are a danger to themselves or others can be put into “administrative segregation.” The separations can last as little as an hour or extend for weeks, said Barrett, a 23-year veteran of the facility.
Maximum security units are located on the jail’s 11th floor, where just 18 men were held as of Friday. The inmates there are confined to their cells and served meals through slots in the doors. Whether they must remain on that floor is reassessed weekly, Barrett said.
Officers assigned to booking see a rush of people on Friday nights, Saturday nights and holidays, mostly for public intoxication, they said.
Detainees are escorted into the facility through back doors, some of which are connected to the court next door. Footprints painted on the floor show where they must stand as they wait to be fingerprinted and have their mugshot taken.
Every detainee receives a handful of pamphlets guiding them through everything from how to report sexual misconduct to what personal items they’re allowed to keep, like a wedding band without stones, worn only on the left ring finger.
“Think of it like your first day of college,” Barrett said. “You’re getting oriented.”
Arlington County officials promoted the Community Energy Plan approved last year in an online video released this week.
The plan, adopted in June 2013 after 15 months of community meetings, was designed to improve energy use through 2050 and set a national standard, County Board Chair Jay Fisette says in the eight- minute clip.
“A community energy plan is the next chapter of Arlington’s sustainability story,” Fisette says.
Officials explain how the county has reduced energy use in public buildings, including in the Central Library, where upgrades to lighting and other technology have cut usage by 25 percent since 2007.
Businesses and homeowners need to do their part, as the private sector accounts for 96 percent of the county’s energy use, said Community Energy Coordinator Rich Dooley.
“We’re looking at potential financial incentive programs for commercial building owners to try to get them to do more energy efficiency and renewable energy projects,” Dooley says.
Arlington’s top chefs beat out the county’s best firehouse cooks at a reality TV-style charity competition fought in Clarendon Wednesday night.
Professional cooks won two out of three “Golden Eggplants” awarded at the Arlington Food Assistance Center‘s third annual Chiefs vs. Chefs benefit.
Given ingredients found in AFAC pantries that serve a growing number of hungry Arlington residents, Arlington County Fire Department Lt. Richard Slusher and Firefighter Anthony Westfall of Station 4 in Clarendon took the first award of the night. They whipped up potato and zucchini latkes with a Mediterranean salsa and lemon-basil sour cream. The firehouse cooks bested chef Tim Ma of the Virginia Square eatery Water & Wall. Ma made a hot dog salad with avocado, corn, fish sauce and palm sugar.
“[The latkes] were elegant, well-seasoned and artful,” judge David Guas of Bayou Bakery said after he announced his vote by hoisting a red sign with a fire hat. “Do you have any more?”
Making a vegetarian chili with crispy chicken confit, chefs Kate Jansen and Tracy O’Grady of the Ballston restaurant Willow won the soup round of the food fight. They beat out Capt. Bosephus “Bo” Bennett of ACFD headquarters and Firefighter David Harrison of Station 5, who made a fall harvest root vegetable soup topped with curry whipped cream.
“It’s creamy and delicious, and the texture is lovely,” ruled judge Shannon Overmiller of Alexandria’s Majestic Cafe.
Bennett, a 14-year veteran of the department, said county firefighters were honored to help AFAC fundraise for needy people.
“It’s for the cause. That’s what we’re here for,” he said, noting that firefighters on calls regularly refer people with empty refrigerators to AFAC’s 18 food distribution sites across the county.
The nonprofit has seen a 40 percent uptick in the number of families it serves, executive director Charles Meng said. AFAC gave food to 1,452 families on average every week from Sept. 2012 to Sept. 2013. At the end of last month, that average had risen to 2,036 families every week.
“The number of families we’re seeing is just going up,” Meng said, explaining that Arlington residents say they’re struggling after sequestration cuts and reductions to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
The competition showed that simple foods can be turned into delicious dishes, Capt. Claude Conde of Station 9 said.
“If you use some imagination, you can get some good, healthy meals out of basic ingredients.”
Conde and Firefighter Joaquin Ibarra of Station 1 competed in the competition’s last round, making an entree of creamy risotto with chicken thighs and eggplant. They faced off against chefs William Morris and Peter Smith of Vermilion in Alexandria, who made a rolled chicken ballotine with chicken mousse, tomato ragu with corn and sweet potato, and charred onion.
The Vermilion chefs won the final Golden Eggplant of the night, after the judges ruled the ACFD dish to be under-seasoned.
AFAC, which is primarily run through donations, raised more than $45,00 from the event, Meng said. He said he was happy to highlight the firehouse-cooking tradition.
ACFD Chief James Schwartz explained why firefighters are such good cooks.
“The secret of firehouse cooking is you either cook or clean up. Either you’re a cook when you get here, or you learn fast,” he said.
The Rosslyn intersection where cyclists and pedestrians face drivers exiting I-66 has received safety modifications in the past two weeks and more changes are on the way, county officials said on a tour of the site Tuesday morning.
In advance of a $5 million overhaul slated to be complete in summer 2016, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation changed the timing of the traffic lights and walk signals at Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street last week, said Larry Marcus, the county’s head of transportation engineering.
“Pedestrians and cyclists are the priority at this location, period,” Marcus said as county officials and police watched people navigate the corner some locals call the “Intersection of Doom.”
One change is minor in cost but should be significant in impact: A no-turn-on-red sign is being installed at N. Lynn Street for those exiting I-66. That’s being done “as soon as possible,” Marcus said.
Additionally, cyclists and pedestrians crossing N. Lynn Street using the Custis Trail previously had a walk signal when all traffic lights were red — known as a “leading interval” — for just 2 seconds; the length of that signal was increased last week to 5 seconds, Marcus said. The county plans to increase the leading interval time to 15 to 20 seconds in the next six months, once new signal technology is installed.
“We’re giving more time for pedestrians and bikes to go first,” Marcus said, adding that new caution signs for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will be added to the intersection.
Drivers headed west on Lee Highway, meanwhile, now have an additional 10 seconds of biker- and pedestrian-free time to clear the intersection.
To pair with engineering changes, the Arlington County Police Department has ramped up traffic enforcement and educational efforts at the corner where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, Capt. James Wasem said.
“People can expect to see uniformed police officers out here flagging cars over, directing traffic, handing out some brochures and citing violations,” he said about the measures enacted about two weeks ago.
Police issued 228 citations at the intersection from Sept. 15, 2013 through the same date this year: 133 for failure to obey traffic signals, 32 for improper turning and 1 for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Fifteen car crashes occurred at the intersection within that period, police said; just two crashes on record involved pedestrians.
The ACPD assigns an officer to direct traffic at the intersection on weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. but must spread officers between that corner, schools and other frequent crash sites. The department began sending an officer to the location “as often as possible” following recommendations from a traffic analyst the county hired this year, Wasem said.
ACPD is seeking funding to assign two officers to Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street every weekday morning, plus an additional two officers at Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, Wasem said. The latter intersection has been facing a chronic problem of drivers “blocking the box” during rush hour since construction began on the Central Place project, blocking lanes of Lynn Street.
The additional staffing would cost $180,000 through next year.
The pedestrian was crossing Lee Highway at a corner locals have called the “Intersection of Doom” about 8:20 a.m. when the driver of a black SUV plowed into her, officers and a witness said. The driver was headed north on N. Lynn Street and was making a left turn onto Lee Highway when she hit a northbound pedestrian who was using the crosswalk and had the walk signal, according to officers and witness David Clark.
Clark, a 56-year-old Rosslyn resident, was doing his daily exercise routine in Arlington Gateway Park near the intersection when he heard a yell.
“I was coming up from my pushup when I saw a lady crossing the street, and then I heard her holler,” he said. “The lady was in the crosswalk when she got hit.”
An ACPD officer was directing traffic when the crash occurred but momentarily had his back turned to that corner, officers said. An officer is posted weekday mornings from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the intersection packed with drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, an officer said.
The pedestrian was taken to a hospital and thought to have a broken ankle, according to police scanner traffic. Officers on the scene said the driver could be ticketed, pending an investigation.
In May, the Arlington County Board approved spending an additional $75,000 on safety improvements to the intersection where cyclists have been hit by drivers several times. The upgrades will extend curbs at the intersection’s corners, modify traffic signals, add on-street bike lanes and remove a travel lane from Lee Highway. Construction was set to start in the spring and be complete in summer 2016.
Two locals are opening a veterinary clinic on N. 10th St. between N. Garfield and N. Highland Streets. Set to open in early 2015, Clarendon Animal Care will provide a range of treatments.
“We’ll be a full-service general practice doing everything from wellness care to geriatric treatments to management of chronic conditions,” co-owner Kayleen Gloor said.
Gloor, 32, and co-owner Natasha Ungerer, 34, will also perform basic dentistry and have X-ray machines. The office will focus on making both human and animal clients comfortable and helping pet owners understand how to keep their companions healthy.
“I can’t count the number of times people have told me they wish I were their own medical doctor because I explain things so clearly,” Gloor said.
Gloor, an Arlington resident, and Ungerer, a McLean resident, met during an internship at a veterinary emergency office in Gaithersburg. They believe Clarendon Animal Care will be the only all-woman-owned veterinary clinic in Arlington. The majority of veterinary students are women, yet few own their own practices, Gloor said.
“It’s a bit of an old boys’ club.”
The Arlington County board approved a policy on Tuesday night to install high-resolution cameras on the “stop arms” of school buses to catch drivers who don’t stop to protect children.
“Any car passing a stopped school bus, throw the book at them,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.
The cameras will automatically capture photos and video of any vehicle that passes a school bus from behind or the front when it is stopped with its driver’s side stop sign extended.
The images will be reviewed by a vendor selected by Arlington Public Schools through a competitive bidding process and then sent to the Arlington County Police Department. Police will then send citations to the vehicles’ registered owners.
The cameras will be installed and operated at no cost to APS, which will share ticket funds with the vendor and reimburse ACPD for reviewing the footage. According to County Board documents, in Falls Church a school bus camera vendor receives 75 percent of revenue in the first year of a contract, 60 percent in the second year and 50 percent in subsequent years.
The $250 fines will be payable to Arlington Public Schools, which may earmark the money for school bus and pedestrian safety programs.
“This is not about money, it’s about safety — and the red light cameras aren’t either. It’s about saving lives and reducing injury,” Fisette said.
County Board members opted to push back the effective date of the ordinance to Feb. 1 to put in place policies on storing, accessing and sharing the recordings.
Board Vice-Chair Mary Hughes Hynes said she wanted to balance children’s safety with privacy concerns.
“I’m very concerned about wandering in here without some conversation about what the limits and our expectations are,” she said.
Lt. Mike Watson said the images caught on camera will be held for 60 days if an infraction is recorded, and then deleted.
“If there are no violations issued, that information will be purged 10 days after use,” he said.
If the cameras were to record another crime, the footage could be released only by court order, Watson said.
Violators will receive warnings, not tickets, for the first month the cameras are used. ACPD has issued an estimated 700 citations in the past five years to drivers who pass stopped school buses.
Photo via Flickr/madame_furie
Built in 1988, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. will receive upgrades to its offices, hallways and lobby, according to Jackson Prentice, vice president of developer MRP Realty. The renovations to the eight-story, 144,000-square-foot building will aim to create “open space, with a more modern feel,” he said.
“The whole building will feel brand new,” Prentice said. “The work will bring the building to a better prominence.”
The FWS moved out of 4301, 4401 and 4501 N. Fairfax Dr. in July and August after the General Services Administration announced last September that the headquarters would be moved to Falls Church. Under the government’s base realignment and closure plan, or BRAC, the GSA estimated moving to 5275 Leesburg Pike would save the government more than $3.8 million annually for 15 years, a news release said.
Pre-leasing on 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. has begun, Prentice said, with work expected to be complete by spring or summer 2015.
The office vacancy rate in Ballston was 16 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to figures from the real estate company CoStar cited by Arlington Economic Development. This was an increase from 14.7 percent last year. The overall office vacancy rate for the county was 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014, up from 16.4 percent last year, the figures state.
Representatives for the other two ex-FWS buildings did not immediately respond to inquiries.
(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) The Whole Foods Market in Clarendon was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after smoke started spewing from the roof.
Arlington County firefighters rushed to the 2700 Wilson Blvd. store after they received a rescue call at about 2:45 p.m., ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani said.
The fire was put out quickly and all customers and staff were ordered to leave as firefighters searched for hot spots.
The blaze started on a stove in the front area where rotisserie chickens are sold and and was extinguished by the store’s employees, Marchegiani said. Patches of grease then caught fire in a cooking vent.
No injuries were reported.
A health inspector was called to ensure the store will be safe for re-entry. When the store can reopen won’t be known until an inspector can make an assessment, county Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick said.
“Hopefully it is just minor damage and there are no food safety issues, and they will be back up and running soon,” Larrick said.
One lane of Clarendon Blvd was shut down to accommodate emergency vehicles.
Ethan Rothstein contributed reporting
Ballston residents and workers can now get a hot Korean meal in a flash.
The 900 N. Stuart St. deli Mike’s Cafe opened a walk-up window last week that serves the rice, meat and vegetable dish bibimbap.
Owner Mike Kim said he wanted to offer a healthy, “trendy” lunch option.
“From the offices, they’re looking for something original,” said Kim, a 56-year-old Fairfax resident who opened the deli five years ago.
Bibimbap will be served from the window daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The meal costs $8.19 and is available with marinated beef bulgogi or less traditional options including pastrami, corned beef and ham.
Kim said he prefers serving customers sandwiches, salads and more in Ballston over his previous work in the steel industry in his native Seoul.
“This is more interesting,” he said. “I like so much to meet new people.”