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Arlington’s top prosecutor said she is working with Arlington County Police Department to establish a multi-agency cooperative effort to tackle the carjackings and vehicle tamperings here and in the D.C. area.

“My philosophy has always been to focus on crimes that are a public safety risk,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow. “Car tamperings and car thefts, I don’t look at those as simple ‘property crimes’ because those are things that make people feel vulnerable and set people up for dangerous situations.”

Dehghani-Tafti, who was elected in 2019 on a platform of criminal justice reform, said she has been following the theft and tampering trend and looking for patterns. She said she has also been encouraging early and constant communication between her office and ACPD, while the two are working with other Northern Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions and some federal agencies.

This coordination may turn into something like a task force. Talks about one began in February, and she said officials will soon be able to announce some kind of organized intra-jurisdiction response.

“ACPD has been working on the task force, and I’ve been promoting the task force,” the prosecutor said.

Property crimes from 2016 to 2020 (via ACPD)

Motor vehicle thefts have risen steadily since 2018, according to ACPD’s newly released 2020 crime report.

Dehghani-Tafti said that is playing out across the river in D.C., which saw five times more carjackings in the first quarter of 2021 than the same period in 2020. Similar sprees are occurring in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Howard County, she said.

“We’re seeing this across the country, whether or not a reformer is in office or the county government is progressive or not,” she said.

And Dehghani-Tafti said she has reason to believe the car thefts are organized. A few weeks ago, she drove around with ACPD detectives to see what they see and maintain the collaboration she said is needed to tackle more organized crime sprees.

“The carjackings started to look [organized] when a few people were arrested in February and March and the instances went down dramatically in all the jurisdictions in the D.C. area,” she said.

Her office has one person whose job is to provide early assistance to ACPD and other agencies as they build carjacking and tampering cases. The sooner law enforcement agencies reach out, the sooner her office can support officers as they ask for search warrants, gather evidence and build cases.

Such a collaboration “adds value and context of a case” to investigations “so that we don’t take things that are serious insufficiently seriously and we don’t overreact to cases that are not within the organized pattern we are seeing,” she said.

“The criminal-legal system is a blunt tool, and what we’re trying to do is make it more surgical,” she said.

That approach does not mean she is “soft on crime,” she argued, but that she is going after the right people.

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As COVID-19 cases surged in Arlington County last year, so did carjackings, assaults, trespassings and opioid overdoses, according to a new annual report from Arlington County Police Department.

Meanwhile, alcohol-related crimes and vehicle crashes saw significant decreases.

Overall, the report paints a mixed picture of a relatively flat crime rate for those against property and society, or “Group A Offenses,” compared to 2019. It also shows a drop in the number of arrests for less serious crimes such as trespassing, loitering and drunkenness, or “Group B Arrests.”

But the report highlights a few key crimes that rose or fell, partially due to the pandemic. It also addresses at length the rash of carjackings — which started ticking up in 2019 and have continued in 2021 — and ACPD’s response.

“Group A Offense Totals” and “Group B Arrests” rose to 7,990 and fell to 956, respectively, from 7,985 and 1,324 the year prior, according to the report.

Crime rates from 2016 to 2020 by “Group A” and “Group B” (via ACPD)

While the Group A total stayed largely flat, “2020 was marked particularly by increases in vehicle-related property crimes including carjacking offenses, motor vehicle thefts, larcenies from auto and tamperings,” newly-appointed Police Chief Andy Penn wrote in the report.

Penn said these car thefts and tamperings are playing out across the D.C. area and nationwide. ACPD investigated 16 carjacking reports in 2020: eight were solved with arrests or with the identified suspect being held in another jurisdiction.

“Arlington detectives worked collaboratively with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to investigate cases, identify suspects and apprehend those responsible,” Penn said.

Most of the carjackings were concentrated in Crystal City and Pentagon City. In response, ACPD poured more resources into these neighborhoods last year and earlier this year, which the department said in March appears to be working.

Crimes against property from 2016 to 2020 (via ACPD)

Thieves tend to target unlocked vehicles in neighborhoods, Toyotas and Hondas (for their parts) in open-air parking lots and those left running unattended or parked with keys inside, according to the report.

Assaults, meanwhile, reached a sustained three-month high from July through September before declining. They were concentrated in populated areas and in transit corridors, the report said.

“This temporal pattern was similar to other offense types this year, likely related to COVID-19 closures,” according to the report. “Domestic assault and battery offenses against a family or household member increased by 38 cases (14.6%) compared to 2019 and were a significant contributor to the increase in simple assaults.”

Although ACPD’s report does not specifically link domestic assault to the pandemic, at least one study does.

Crimes against persons from 2016 to 2020 (via ACPD)

While crimes against people have been increasing since 2018, Arlington’s violent crime rate continues to be less than half the statewide rate, the report said.

Lastly, ACPD investigated 20 fatal overdoses and 54 non-fatal overdoses in 2020 — more than any other year since it began actively tracking incidents involving opioids in 2014, the report said. The total, 74, matched the number reported at the peak of the opioid epidemic in 2017, and involved heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl.

“While the investigation into these incidents revealed no direct evidence that the increases are fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely a factor given the timing, the loss of income and jobs and the isolation of stay-at-home orders,” the report said.

Opioid overdoses in Arlington County (via ACPD)

COVID-19 may partially explain the increases in assaults and thefts, but it may also have contributed to a sharp decline by 27% in “Group B” arrests. Leading that drop were drunkenness (42%), driving under the influence (13%) and liquor law violations (68%).

“These declines are likely indicative of COVID-19 business closures and reduced hours of operation, decreased public consumption of alcohol, success of increased enforcement, advocacy and better utilization of taxis, ridesharing and other transportation options in reducing DUI behavior,” the report said. “Alcohol-involved traffic collisions were reduced in 2020 to the lowest levels in recent years.”

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An armed carjacking and a police chase led to the arrest of four suspects — all under the age of 18 — over the weekend.

The incident happened around 8 p.m. on Sunday. Police say a victim was sitting in his car in a parking garage near the Pentagon City mall when the suspects approached and one drew a gun.

They allegedly ordered the victim out of the car, stole some cash, and then drove off, crashing through a fence in the parking garage. The suspects made it a few blocks away before being spotted by officers on S. Eads Street, according to Arlington County police. A brief chase ensued until the suspects crashed along Army Navy Drive, just west of Pentagon City, and all four were taken into custody.

This was just the latest carjacking in the Pentagon City area, which has seen numerous carjackings and vehicle thefts, as well as some arrests.

More details from an ACPD press release, below.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is announcing the arrest of four juvenile suspects following an armed carjacking. All four juveniles have been arrested and charged with Carjacking, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony. The juvenile who was determined to be the driver of the stolen vehicle faces additional charges of Eluding and Destruction of Property.

At approximately 7:55 p.m. on June 6, police were dispatched to the 1200 block of S. Hayes Street for the report of an armed carjacking that just occurred. Arriving officers were flagged down by witnesses who provided a direction of travel for the vehicle. An officer, with emergency equipment activated, located the vehicle on S. Eads Street and attempted a traffic stop. The driver failed to comply, proceeded through red lights and eluded police. A vehicle pursuit was then initiated. The driver continued to make evasive moves and struck the curb in the 1300 block of Army Navy Drive causing the vehicle to come to a stop. All four suspects were then taken into custody.

The investigation determined that the victim was sitting inside his vehicle in a parking garage in the 1200 block of S. Hayes Street when the four suspects approached. One suspect brandished a firearm and demanded the victim open the door to the vehicle. The suspects then took an undisclosed amount of cash from the victim before fleeing the scene in his vehicle and driving through a fence that was blocking part of the garage.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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A knife-wielding man carjacked a rideshare vehicle in Ballston this morning and drove off with the passenger still inside, police say.

The Arlington County Police Department announced the man’s arrest Tuesday afternoon.

According to police, the carjacking happened around 7 a.m. on the 900 block of N. Stafford Street, near the Ballston Metro station. Officers spotted the car in the Lyon Park neighborhood, south of Clarendon, and initiated a pursuit that eventually ended on S. Glebe Road near the Arlington Ridge Giant supermarket.

A 27-year-old Alexandria man is now facing carjacking and abduction charges. The passenger was not injured.

More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department is announcing the arrest of a suspect following an armed carjacking in the Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhood. Delonte Hall, 27, of Alexandria, VA, was arrested and charged with Carjacking and Abduction. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

At approximately 7:00 a.m. on May 11, police were dispatched to the 900 block of N. Stafford Street for the report of an armed robbery. The investigation revealed a rideshare driver was picking up a fare when both the passenger and the suspect entered the vehicle. The driver realized the suspect was not with the passenger and challenged him, at which point the suspect produced a knife and demanded the vehicle. The driver exited the vehicle and the suspect fled the scene in the stolen vehicle with the passenger inside.

Responding officers located the vehicle traveling in the area of Washington Boulevard at N. Pershing Drive and initiated a pursuit. With the assistance of Virginia State Police, the vehicle was blocked in at the intersection of S. Glebe Road and Meade Street. The suspect was taken into custody without incident. The passenger was not injured.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

A South Carolina man who forcibly stole a woman’s car and then fled from police has received a nearly four year prison sentence.

On the evening of June 22, 2020, police say Verdell Floyd carjacked a woman in a gas station near Shirlington. According to police, Floyd approached the woman while she was pumping gas “and demanded the vehicle.”

Floyd, then 19, drove into Fairfax County before driving back into Arlington and fleeing from police at a high rate of speed. He later abandoned the car and was arrested after a K-9 search, according to Arlington County police.

The Columbia, South Carolina resident pleaded guilty to felony charges of carjacking and eluding police in January. Last week, he was sentenced in Arlington Circuit Court.

“The court sentenced Mr. Floyd received a sentence at the mid-point of his sentencing guidelines, which requires that he serve an active sentence of 3 years and 8 months to serve,” Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow, in response to inquiries about the case. “The exact sentence was 15 years, with all but 3 years and 6 months suspended on the carjacking charge, and on the eluding charge, 12 months with 10 months suspended. He will be required to engage in supervised probation for 5 years upon release.”

ARLnow also asked about other cases stemming from the rise in carjackings both in Arlington and around the region, specifically seeking stats on such prosecutions in Arlington and comment on how those cases are being handled.

Dehghani-Tafti replied simply: “As for the other cases, we are prosecuting them.”

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Morning Notes

Man Arrested for Alleged Carjacking — “Upon exiting the store, the suspect approached the vehicle associated with the female witness and attempted to hand the male occupant a drink. When the male declined, the suspect allegedly punched him on the side of the head and proceeded to open the vehicle’s door, pull him out and began assaulting him. The occupants from the suspect’s vehicle attempted to intervene and when the suspect refused to comply, they left the scene. Upon seeing that the suspect vehicle had left the parking lot, the suspect entered the victim’s vehicle and fled the scene.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Workers to Volunteer at Vaccination Site — “The company sent out an opportunity for employees to volunteer at the clinic on one of its listservs, and pulled in workers from all around the region, including those at Amazon Web Services, which has a hefty Herndon presence. Roughly 50 Amazon employees will help run the clinic each day… While Arlington health workers will deliver the vaccines themselves, Amazon volunteers will perform other important tasks, like monitoring people for symptoms after they’ve received a shot.” [Washington Business Journal]

Capitol Rioter Photographed in Arlington — “[Michigan] resident Anthony Williams used Facebook to show off photos and videos of himself inside the U.S. Capitol, which gave law enforcement officials enough evidence to arrest him last week… Williams posted updates to Facebook as he traveled to Washington, D.C. He posted his location in Bedford County, Pennsylvania with the caption “Operation Storm the Swamp” and posed for a photo with five other men at a sports pub in Arlington, Virginia.” [MLive]

Rosslyn Building Set for Foreclosure Sale — “A Rosslyn office building that hosts one of President Joe Biden’s favorite sandwich shops is slated to be sold at a foreclosure auction, the latest sign of distress in Greater Washington’s commercial real estate industry… a public auction is scheduled to be held 11 a.m. Wednesday outside the Arlington County courthouse for 1500 Wilson Blvd., a 17-story, 261,360-square-foot office building that stands at the intersection of North Oak Street and Clarendon and Wilson boulevards in Arlington County.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lopez’s Challenger Picks Up Endorsement — “The activist group Our Revolution Arlington has endorsed Karishma Mehta’s bid to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) in the June 8 Democratic primary… The organization pointed to the challenger’s support for the Green New Deal for Virginia, single-payer healthcare, ‘slashing police budgets and re-investing those resources into securing people’s basic needs,’ repealing right-to-work laws and other ‘transformative policy proposals.'” [Sun Gazette]

Kiwanis Help Kids During the Pandemic — “Arlington’s pandemic-stressed safety net organizations received an infusion of funds from the Kiwanis Foundation of Arlington this month. The Foundation, the charitable arm of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington, distributed more than $50,000 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center, Arlington THRIVE, The Salvation Army, ASPIRE, Bridges to Independence, PRS Crisis Link, Doorways, Capital Caring, YMCA, Arlington 4-H, National Capital Treatment & Recovery, VHC Pediatrics and other non-profits serving children in the community.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

Alleged Carjacking Crew Busted in Arlington — “The audacious spree, police officials said Thursday, accounted for five of 21 armed robberies and armed carjackings in the D.C. region linked to the same four-person crew in January and February… Two were arrested Feb. 5 and Feb. 19. The other two were apprehended a week later after a SWAT team converged on them in a hotel in Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Va. Expands Eligibility for Retail Vaccinations — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that Federal Retail Pharmacy partners will expand within Phase 1b to offer vaccines to individuals who are 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, as well as frontline essential workers.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

Still a Thing: Homes with Septic Tanks — From Chris Slatt on Twitter: “I was today years old when I learned that there are 38 residences in Arlington County with septic tanks.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Maintenance Worker Exposes Himself — “5300 block of N. Carlin Springs Road. On March 16, police received a message on the Telephone Reporting Unit phone line regarding an indecent exposure. The victim stated that at approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 15, while having maintenance completed inside her residence, the suspect exposed his genitals to her.” [ACPD]

Rosslyn-Based Rosetta Stone Acquired — “IXL Learning, developer of personalized learning products used by more than 12 million students, announced that it has acquired Rosetta Stone, the leader in technology-based language education.” [PRNewswire]

Origin Coffee Lab Profiled — “For the coffee, Mekonnen relies on a 5-kilo-capacity Probat P5-2 roaster to turn out fresh roasts. The machine also serves as an industrial centerpiece and natural focal point, one the company plans to highlight more through educational events and tastings as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.” [Daily Coffee News]

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A month ago, Arlington County police announced stepped-up patrols in and around Crystal City, following a string of carjackings.

Since then no new carjackings have been reported, and ACPD says it has taken five guns off the streets via proactive enforcement.

More from a press release:

In February, the Arlington County Police Department launched a criminal patrol detail to address recent violent crime trends in Crystal City and the surrounding neighborhoods. The detail takes a two-pronged approach to reducing criminal activity in the area: education and enforcement. Officers conduct high-visibility enforcement patrols while engaging community members and business stakeholders about important crime and safety information.

As a result of the proactive investigative efforts of officers working the detail, 6 weapons have been recovered including 5 firearms and 1 pair of brass knuckles. Additionally, there have been zero carjackings or thefts of idling vehicles in the Crystal City area since the detail began. Officers are committed to maintaining public safety through dedicated crime prevention strategies and initiatives. Our efforts to prevent and reduce crime in Arlington County are enhanced by the active involvement of the community and members of the public are encouraged to continue following these safety tips for preventing motor vehicle thefts.

There have been 18 carjackings in Arlington since the start of 2020, including 13 along the Route 1 corridor. By contrast, there were three carjackings from 2018-2019.

The police department provided the following list of arrests and incidents that have occurred since the high-visibility patrols started.

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Arlington County police are stepping up patrols around Crystal City and surrounding neighborhoods amid a rash of carjackings.

There have been 18 carjackings in Arlington since January 2020, the police department said, compared to three total over from 2018 to 2019. Most — 13 out of 18 — have occurred along the Route 1 corridor, including 7 in the immediate vicinity of the Pentagon City mall.

It’s part of a regional crime trend, with other D.C. area jurisdictions similarly experiencing sharp rises in carjackings. ACPD says it has arrested or identified suspects already in custody in 8 of the 18 cases in Arlington.

To help combat the crime wave, the department “continues to deploy increased police resources, to include both visible and non-visible assets, in Crystal City and the surrounding neighborhoods.” It is also “engaging with community members and businesses in the area to share important crime and safety information.”

“The Department is deploying electronic signboards in various locations throughout the County as part of a high-visibility public awareness campaign,” ACPD said in a press release Tuesday.

The carjackers, police say, “often approach victims as they are exiting or sitting in their parked vehicles, brandish a firearm and demand the victim’s keys or property.”

“In some cases, the suspects approach the victim on foot while in others, the suspects approach in a vehicle later determined to be stolen,” police said. “Reported incidents in Arlington County have involved between one and four suspects.”

In the press release, the police department touted the arrests of four suspects seen acting suspiciously in a Pentagon City parking lot Saturday afternoon. More from ACPD:

At approximately 4:40 p.m. on February 13, officers working in the area were dispatched to the 900 block of Army Navy Drive for the report of a suspicious unoccupied vehicle. The reporting party advised they had observed four subjects exit the vehicle, walk slowly through the parking lot, appearing to be casing vehicles. Using law enforcement resources, officers determined the vehicle had previously been reported stolen from a carjacking in Maryland. Officers established a perimeter and the occupants were taken into police custody as they returned to the vehicle. [An 18-year-old suspect from Washington, D.C.] was found in possession of the vehicle’s key and was charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Two other occupants, an adult and juvenile, were charged with narcotics offenses.

Police offered the following safety tips for drivers to help avoid being a victim of a carjacking, car theft, or vehicle break-in.

  • “Exit your vehicle and continue to your destination promptly after parking”
  • “Park in well-lit, high traffic areas.”
  • “Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle”
  • “Limit your use of devices that may distract you, such as cell phones and headphones”
  • “Don’t leave items unattended or visible in your vehicle”

Flickr pool photo (top) by Kevin Wolf. Map (below) courtesy ACPD.

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For the second time in two weeks a carjacking has been reported along Arlington’s Yellow Line corridor.

The latest carjacking happened Wednesday night along the 23rd Street restaurant row, on the 500 block of 23rd Street S. Three men, two armed with guns, stole a Ford Mustang after the victims exited their car, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

One of the suspects hopped in the Mustang and drove off, followed by the other two suspects in an SUV all three arrived in. No injuries were reported.

More from ACPD:

CARJACKING, 2021-02030147, 500 block of 23rd Street S. At approximately 8:50 p.m. on February 3, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims had exited their parked vehicle when the three suspects exited a black SUV and approached them. Suspects One and Two brandished firearms and demanded keys to the victims’ vehicle, then instructed the victims to move away from the vehicle. Suspect One entered the victim’s vehicle and fled, while Suspects Two and Three followed in the SUV prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a Black male, approximately 5’11”, wearing all black and a black mask. Suspect Two is described as a Black male, approximately 5’8″, wearing all black and a black mask. Suspect Three is described as a Black male, approximately 5’6″, 12-17 years old, with dreadlocks, wearing all black. The victims’ vehicle is described as a 2020 Black Ford Mustang with Georgia temporary license plates. The investigation is ongoing.

The D.C. region is in the midst of a rash of carjackings, including violent, armed carjackings. There were 16 carjackings in Arlington in 2020, after just three were reported in the previous two years, according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

The last reported carjacking in Arlington happened on Friday, Jan. 22 in the Pentagon City area.

Arlington County police are investigating a carjacking that happened at one of the Riverhouse apartment buildings in Pentagon City this morning.

Police say a Hyundai with three people inside pulled up to the victim after she parked her Honda Civic. The suspects implied that they were armed, stole the woman’s car and purse, and then fled the scene, according to police department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

More from an initial ACPD crime report:

CARJACKING, 2021-01220113, 1400 block of S. Joyce Street. At approximately 11:08 a.m. on January 22, police were dispatched to the report of a grand larceny auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was exiting her parked vehicle when the suspect vehicle, occupied three times, approached. The suspects implied they had a weapon and threatened the victim before stealing her vehicle and purse. The victim was not injured. The victim’s vehicle is described as a Honda Civic with Virginia plates. The suspect vehicle is described as a white Hyundai. Police remain on scene investigating.

The D.C. region is in the midst of a rash of carjackings, including violent, armed carjackings. There were 16 carjackings in Arlington in 2020, after just three were reported in the previous two years, Savage tells ARLnow.

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