Some officials and residents are asking for more time to review a jail diversion program for people with mental illnesses, saying the county developed it without enough public input.
About a hundred people gathered in the County Board’s meeting room Wednesday afternoon for a meeting called after activists requested a chance to weigh in on the new criminal justice program. Attendees expressed general support for the “Behavioral Health Docket” but worried about its requirement that participants plead guilty to participate, adding that the county needed to listen to more members of the public before finalizing the program.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind is that even if the application is a post-plea docket, which is what Judge [Fran] O’Brien would like to see happen, that there’s going to be evolution,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Anita Friedman in an interview. “I think that even if we start post-plea we might add pre-plea later.”
“I think the important thing is not to let perfection be the enemy of good,” she said, noting that the county has revised its other diversion program, Drug Court, many times over the last few years.
The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia must approve the county’s request to form the diversion program. DHS originally planned to apply for that approval last month before a group of activists and officials, including incoming prosecutor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, said they hadn’t heard about it and had concerns.
After the meeting, officials did not confirm whether they would extend their plan to submit the application in September, or would schedule additional public meetings.
Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood was one of the officials who said he hadn’t heard about the application until very recently. On Wednesday, Haywood said he still supported for the docket but reiterated concerns about the post-plea condition.
“I really want to make sure that as many people as possible are getting into this program, and getting in as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that requiring pleas could “dramatically reduce” the number of participants and how fast they can join it.
The Behavioral Health Docket will accept participants who have pled guilty to a misdemeanor offense, or a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, and reside in Arlington, according to a program description obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. People with a history of felony convictions, sexual offenses, or have active warrants out for their arrest in other jurisdictions cannot participate, per a copy of the application ARLnow obtained after filing a FOIA request.
Participants would have to meet weekly in court as well as their probation officer, mental health clinician, per the application. Participants will also have to pass drug and alcohol screenings, take any medications prescribed, participate in activities like volunteer work or employment, and stay clear of any new arrests. Over time, participants will meet less frequently as they work towards a “graduation” where they’ll be supervised for another 90 days.
“That’s why it’s called a therapeutic docket,” said Judge O’Brien. “It’s designed to help people with mental illness and designed to help keep them on a path that keeps them out of the criminal justice system.”
She told the audience that it was imperative to move quickly because of the sheer number of people affected. Earlier that day, she said five people on her docket were clients of the county’s behavioral health services and where “chronic violators” of their parole. Recently, she said one defendant disappeared after appearing to get better and family members were concerned he was off his medications.
“All I wanted to do is try to find him before he got too far gone,” said O’Brien. “Because I didn’t have that power because he wasn’t on my docket, so I had to issue a warrant for his arrest.”
A recent spate of car thefts and break-ins in North Arlington is continuing.
Arlington County Police are investigating two car thefts and seven car break-ins in the Lyon Park neighborhood this week. The crimes were first reported Wednesday morning on the 2900 block of 2nd Street N. and the 300 block of Edgewood Street, about a half mile south of Clarendon.
At least one car was stolen after the thief found the keys in an unlocked vehicle, police said.
“Keys to one of the stolen vehicles were located inside an unlocked vehicle involved in the larceny from auto series,” and ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow. The second vehicle was unlocked and “stolen by unknown means.”
Additionally, seven vehicles were broken into “and items tampered with.”
Police are again reminding residents to lock their cars at night. Yesterday the department announced a new public safety initiative dubbed the “9 P.M. Routine,” which encourages Arlingtonians to make a habit of ensuring their vehicles and homes are locked at night.
“Burglaries and thefts are often crimes of opportunity with thieves taking advantage of unsecured doors and windows to steal unattended items or items left in plain view,” police said in a press release. “The 9 P.M. Routine encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.”
The campaign also encourages residents to report suspicious activity by calling the Arlington Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
The full crime report item from the Lyon Park thefts is below.
LARCENY FROM AUTO/STOLEN VEHICLE (series), 2019-07100052/07100064, 2900 block of 2nd Street N./300 block of N. Edgewood Street At approximately 6:54 a.m. on July 10, police were dispatched to the report of a stolen vehicle. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 9:00 p.m. and 6:54 a.m., an unknown suspect(s) obtained the keys to and stole an unlocked parked vehicle. While investigating the stolen vehicle, officers were notified of a second unlocked vehicle in the area that had been stolen and located approximately seven additional unlocked vehicles that had been entered and items tampered with. There is no suspects descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
Latest Flood Stats — “As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Environmental Services had received 151 calls about damage to private property, storm drain backups, indoor flooding and roadway flooding; The County also investigated more than 30 drainage complaints.” [Arlington County]
Record-Setting Rain Rate — “The 3.30 [inches of rain] recorded between 8:52-9:52 a.m [at Reagan National Airport] was Washington, D.C.’s highest hourly precip report in records dating back to 1936.” [Twitter]
Flooded Scooters Removed from Service — “Bird, Jump, and Lime, three of the city’s five operators, told The Verge that their employees were actively engaged in removing scooters from the flooded areas.” [The Verge]
ACPD Crime Map Goes Down — “ACPD is aware of system issues with the Online Community Crime Map and is working with the third-party vendor, LexisNexis, to resolve the issue. If you are looking for information regarding crime in your neighborhood, please view the Daily Crime Report.” [Twitter]
D.C. Office Vacancy Rises as N. Va. Declines — “Office vacancy is reaching new heights in the District as new supply continues to outpace demand, but market conditions are much better for landlords in neighboring Northern Virginia.” [Bisnow]
Trailers to Take Out Tree — “In a community where the destruction of even a single tree can mobilize residents, there may be another skirmish in the offing on July 13. That’s the date that Arlington County Board members will be asked to approve the placement of new portable (‘relocatable’) classrooms on the campus Arlington Traditional School, designed to ease overcrowding.” [InsideNova]
Ballston Office Building Sold — “The first building developed in Ballston’s Liberty Center complex has just traded hands. Carr Properties sold the One Liberty Center office building at 875 North Randolph St. to USAA Real Estate, the JLL brokerage team announced Monday. Property records show the sale closed June 26 for about $153M.” [Bisnow]
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
Arlington County is considering a new program to divert people with mental illnesses into treatment instead of jail.
The proposed program would waive incarceration for people with mental illnesses who are convicted of non-violent misdemeanors if they agree to an intensive treatment program supervised by a judge. All the officials who spoke to ARLnow about the program supported it, but some weren’t aware the county was working on the program and said they had little opportunity to add input.
The Arlington County’s Department of Human Services is spearheading the program. A spokesman told ARLnow on June 27 that in response to “recent requests” it would host a public meeting on the so-called Behavioral Health Docket on Wednesday, July 17 at 3 p.m. The location of the meeting has yet to be determined.
“The aim is to divert eligible defendants with diagnosed mental health disorders into judicially supervised, community-based treatment, designed and implemented by a team of court staff and mental health professionals,” said DHS Assistant Director Kurt Larrick.
This new docket aims to accept defendants 18 or older who reside in Arlington and who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness, Larrick said. Additionally, only defendants who have been charged with misdemeanors, not felonies, would be eligible for the diversion program. Defendants would need to agree to work with a team of mental health professionals and program staff to enroll in the docket and agree to follow a treatment plan with some supervision.
“These programs are distinguished by several unique elements: a problem-solving focus; a team approach to decision-making; integration of social services; judicial supervision of the treatment process; direct interaction between defendants and the judge; community outreach; and a proactive role for the judge,” Larrick said.
Where Mental Illness and the Law Collide
Officials and advocates say they hope that the docket will help break the cycle of recidivism that some people with mental illnesses fall into.
“Arlington has a significant number of people with mental illnesses that intersect with the criminal justice system,” Deputy Public Defender Amy K. Stitzel told ARLnow. “Evidence-based mental health dockets not only treat instead of criminalizing behavior that is a result of mental illness, they increase treatment engagement, improve quality of life, reduce recidivism and save money.”
“We’re talking about people who are arrested for vagrancy and loitering and trespassing,” said Naomi Verdugo, who has been an activist for people in Arlington with mental illness for several years. “These are largely misdemeanors and stupid things, and it’s because they aren’t well. We would be better off putting services around them than paying to incarcerate people who are just going to reoffend.”
“It is clear that the local and regional jails in Virginia have a substantial number of persons with mental illness in their care, and that this care is costly to the localities and to the Commonwealth,” says a 2017 study of similar programs statewide.
The most recent data from Virginia jail surveys indicate that statewide 1 in 10 of the inmates counted was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, such as PTSD or schizophrenia, and about 20% of all inmates had some kind of mental illness.
Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood said his office has been part of a team discussing mental health improvements for 15 years with the county’s Mental Health Criminal Justice Review Committee, and for the past five years with a subcommittee dedicated to creating a docket, called the Behavioral Health Docket Committee. Haywood strongly supports the idea of a Behavioral Health Docket but noted his office wasn’t notified the county had advanced plans for the docket until recently.
“This is not a transparent approach”
While he applauded DHS for moving the program forward, Haywood said he would have liked more input on the design when organizers decided to require defendants plead guilty before participating in the program.
“From our perspective, until early spring of 2019, the process for drafting and submitting an application for the Mental Health Docket seemed to be moving very slowly,” he said. “I don’t know what changed that took the process to where it is now, to having tight deadlines and short comment periods.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who recently won the Democratic primary against incumbent prosecutor Theo Stamos, said she heard about the docket for the first time two weeks ago. During her campaign, Tafti advocated for a mental health court as part of larger criminal justice reforms, but said she wasn’t given a chance to comment on the Behavioral Health Docket.
She told ARLnow that she has concerns the new program “criminalizes mental illness” by requiring a plea to participate.
There has been a recent increase in reports of car break-ins in residential portions of North Arlington, with more than a dozen vehicles broken into this week.
Arlington County Police reported this morning that around 10 vehicles were tampered with in the Bellevue Forest neighborhood in the early morning hours.
LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2019-07020047/07020061/07020062, 3000 block of N. Oxford Street/3100 block of N. Peary Street/3700 block of Roberts Lane. At approximately 6:17 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a larceny from auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 5:30 a.m. and 6:17 a.m., an unknown suspect gained entry to and tampered with approximately 10, mostly unlocked vehicles and stole items of value. The suspect is described as a tall male with a slim build, wearing a long sleeve shirt, light colored pants and black sneakers. The investigation is ongoing.
Over the past few days, residents have reported similar vehicle break-ins and thefts in the Lyon Village, Virginia Square and Rock Spring neighborhoods, via social media and email listservs.
Police continue to ask residents to lock their cars at night, to discourage such break-ins.
The rest of this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report is below, after the jump.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
For at least the second time this month, there has been a series of vehicle tamperings in a North Arlington neighborhood.
The latest series of incidents happened in the Donaldson Run neighborhood, after the previous series of vehicle break-ins in Dominion Hills.
Police say a car was stolen and at least two other vehicles were rummaged through between Sunday night and Monday morning, along the 3000 block of N. Stuart Street.
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
VEHICLE TAMPERING (series), 2019-06240073, 3000 block of N. Stuart Street. At approximately 8:30 a.m. on June 24, police were dispatched to the report of a stolen vehicle. While investigating the stolen vehicle, it was determined that between 10:00 p.m. on June 23 and 8:30 a.m. on June 24, approximately two additional unlocked vehicles were entered and items items tampered with. Nothing of value was reported stolen. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.
Police say residents should keep their cars locked and remove valuables after parking.
Below are the rest of the highlights from this week’s crime report, including some we’ve already reported.
Four people, all in their 20s, were arrested after a wild incident early Sunday morning at Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike.
According to Arlington County Police, police were called to the business around 3:30 a.m. and found one of the diners “yelling verbal profanities and acting aggressively towards staff.” While escorting the suspect out of the business, three of his dining companions allegedly attempted to interfere with the responding officer and a scuffle ensued, ending in backup arriving and helping to arrest the group.
All four suspects are charged with Drunk in Public, while two are also facing other charges.
The ACPD crime report (below) says the incident happened on the 2300 block of Columbia Pike; the only business on that block that open at the time would have been Bob and Edith’s.
ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-06230071, 2300 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:38 a.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject inside of a business. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect yelling verbal profanities and acting aggressively towards staff. As an officer attempted to escort the suspect out of the business, three additional suspects began following behind, while yelling verbal profanities at the officer. While exiting, the Suspect One allegedly stopped in the doorway and ignored lawful commands, refusing to exit. He became combative and swung at the officer. Suspect Two allegedly attempted to interfere with the officer’s interaction with Suspect One, at which point, the first suspect pushed the officer. Suspect Three then allegedly grabbed the officer’s outer carrier vest and became verbally irate and physically aggressive towards the officer. Suspect Four allegedly attempted to physically obstruct the officer’s efforts to control Suspect Three. The officer was then able to move the four suspects out of the staircase area and to the exterior of the business. While the officer attempted to place Suspect One in handcuffs, he actively resisted and then grabbed the officer’s arm. With the assistance of additional units arriving on scene, Suspect One was taken into custody, however, Suspects Two, Three and Four continued to act disorderly, ignoring lawful commands from officers to disperse and were subsequently taken into custody. The officer suffered minor injuries that did not require medical treatment during the incident. Rudy Barrera, 25, of Sterling, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault & Battery on Law Enforcement, Disorderly Conduct and Drunk in Public. He was held on no bond. Gabriel Gonzalez, 25, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct and Drunk in Public. Yancy Aguilar, 22, of Fairfax, Va., was arrested and charged with Drunk in Public. Cinthia Escobar-Gomez, 24, of Sterling, Va., was arrested and charged with Drunk in Public.
A man was arrested early Sunday and charged in a pair of robberies in the Crystal City area.
Police say 41-year-old Christopher Uglialoro first robbed a business at knifepoint on the 1800 block of Jefferson Davis Highway, around 1:45 a.m. He then robbed another nearby business, on the 400 block of 23rd Street S., around 2:15 a.m., according to police.
In each incident, police say Uglialoro acted disorderly, damaging items and throwing merchandise. He was located and arrested “without incident” shortly after the robberies, according to this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.
The 400 block of 23rd Street S. is home to a 7-Eleven store. Police typically do not identify the victims of crimes and in this case did not say which businesses were robbed.
More from ACPD:
ROBBERY, 2019-06160036, 1800 block of Jefferson Davis Highway. At approximately 1:46 a.m. on June 16, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly entered the business and began acting disorderly and tampering with items. When an employee approached him, he produced a knife, and demanded cash. The suspect then stole an undisclosed amount of cash and continued to tamper with and damage items inside the business before fleeing prior to police arrival. Officers canvased the area and located the suspect based upon the description provided in a lookout. The suspect was positively identified and taken into custody without incident. Christopher Uglialoro, 41, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Robbery.
ROBBERY, 2019-06160046, 400 block of 23rd Street S. At approximately 2:15 a.m. on June 16, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject inside a business. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly entered a business, went behind the counter and began throwing merchandise. When confronted by an employee, the suspect became irate and threatened the employee, before grabbing merchandise and fleeing the scene prior to police arrival. Officers were already in the area canvasing to locate a suspect in a separate robbery case (2019-6160036), when a lookout was broadcast. The suspect in the prior robbery case was subsequently determined to be involved in this case. Christopher Uglialoro, 41, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Robbery.
The rest of the week’s crime report, after the jump.
A man in a car exposed himself to girls who were walking down the street in the Lyon Park neighborhood, south of Clarendon.
The incident happened last Wednesday around 7 a.m.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2019-06050059, 2800 block of 4th Street N. At approximately 7:01 a.m. on June 5, the juvenile female victims were walking in the area when an unknown male suspect pulled alongside them in a vehicle and exposed his genitals. The victims ran from the area and sought assistance. The suspect is described as a white male driving a black vehicle. The investigation is ongoing.
Other crime reports of note from the past week are below, after the jump.
An Arlington man has been arrested and charged with three counts of Attempted Malicious Wounding after police say he tried to hit several people with a hammer.
Police say they were dispatched to an apartment on the 3800 block of Washington Blvd, in the Virginia Square neighborhood, around 3:45 p.m. this past Saturday after a man became irate over a missing item. The encounter then escalated to attempted physical violence, according to police.
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ATTEMPTED MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2019-05110181, 3800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 3:45 p.m. on May 11, police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:30 p.m., the known suspect approached the victims inside of a residence and became verbally irate over a missing item. The encounter escalated and the suspect and one of the victims became involved in a physical altercation. The suspect then produced a hammer and began swinging it at the victims. The suspect fled prior to police arrival. None of the victims were injured during the incident. Arriving officers located the suspect walking in the area. Kemoh Sesay, 27, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Attempted Malicious Wounding (x3). He was held on no bond.
Below are the rest of the highlights from this week’s crime report, including some we’ve already reported.
A 20-year-old Alexandria man is facing a litany of charges after police say he resisted arrest while driving drunk.
The wild incident happened in Ballston this past Sunday night.
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-05050200, 1100 block of N. Vernon Street. At approximately 10:26 p.m. on May 5, police were dispatched to the report of a dispute inside a vehicle. Upon arrival, officers located the vehicle and made contact with the allegedly intoxicated driver. The driver was uncooperative and refused to comply with the officer’s commands to stop the vehicle. Once the vehicle was eventually turned off, the driver exited and actively resisted officers’ attempts to place him in handcuffs. A brief struggle ensued, and, with the assistance of additional arriving officer, the suspect was successfully taken into custody. During a search of the suspect’s person, he was found to be in possession of a knife and an open container of alcohol was located in the vehicle. While at an area hospital being treated for minor injuries and the execution of a search warrant, he allegedly spit on an officer. The passenger of the vehicle sustained minor injuries that did not require medical treatment and the officer sustained minor injuries, which were treated at an area hospital. William Salgado, 20, of Alexandria, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault & Battery on Law Enforcement, Obstruction of Justice, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Attempted Person Under 21 Driving After Illegally Consuming Alcohol and Attempted Drinking While Driving/Open Container. He was held on no bond.
The rest of the crime report is below, after the jump.