Arlington County is the safest city in the country, according to national data compiled by the website MoneyGeek.
Arlington beat out 303 localities for the distinction by having the lowest societal cost of crime, estimated at $132 per person — or $31.3 million total — in 2019.
That means that the direct and indirect costs to Arlington and its 237,000 residents as a result of violent and property crimes is lower than any other U.S. jurisdiction with more than 100,000 people.
The second safest city in the U.S. is Thousand Oaks, California, with a crime cost per capita of $163, followed by Allen, Texas, at $176.
“Behind all these averages that people like to cite about the crime rates in different communities are individual people and their decisions about how they choose to engage in their community,” Brown University professor Jesse Bruhn told MoneyGeek.
According to the website:
The direct economic costs of crime to individuals and society include medical and mental health care needs of victims, damage to and loss of property and police and corrections costs. Aside from the imminent danger of crime, people living in higher crime areas see depressed home values and pay higher prices for crucial needs, including home, renters and auto insurance.
St Louis, Missouri, was named the most dangerous city, with $9,334 in crime per capita. It was followed by Baltimore, Maryland, at $8,179 and Detroit, Michigan, at $7,080.
A felon driving a minivan with allegedly stolen plates was pulled over Saturday night along northbound I-395.
The traffic stop just before the 14th Street Bridge involved a small fleet of Arlington County Police and Virginia State Police cruisers and was caught on video. The highway was blocked while the incident played out.
Tonight's drama on I-395N in Arlington was a felony stop at Route 110/1 about an hour ago involving @ArlingtonVaPD & @VSPPIO. All lanes just cleared after the vehicle was towed. @ARLnowDOTcom @WTOPtraffic pic.twitter.com/ONQYBMkbCJ
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) November 29, 2020
In a crime report today, ACPD said the suspect had a concealed weapon in the vehicle and did not have a driver’s license. He is facing a number of charges.
WEAPONS VIOLATION, 2020-11280126, I-395 at Washington Boulevard. At approximately 8:45 p.m. on November 28, police received a License Plate Reader alert for a vehicle traveling with stolen license plates. Officers observed the vehicle and, with the assistance of Virginia State Police, conducted a traffic stop. During the course of the investigation, officers determined the driver was suspended and recovered a concealed weapon. Erich McDonald, 45, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Felon in Possession of a Concealed Weapon, Receiving Stolen Goods and No Operator’s License. He was held on no bond.
Also in today’s crime report, another armed carjacking was reported. The crime happened on Thanksgiving afternoon in the Crystal City area.
CARJACKING, 2020-11260081, 2000 block of S. Fern Street. At approximately 1:51 p.m. on November 26, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim parked and exited her vehicle, then observed the male suspect walk past her. The victim walked away from her vehicle, then returned to retrieve her belongings. As she re-approached the vehicle, the suspect turned around and ran towards her. The suspect displayed a firearm and demanded the victim’s keys. The suspect took the victim’s keys and fled in her vehicle prior to police arrival. The unoccupied vehicle was later recovered in Prince George’s County, MD. The suspect is described as a Black male in his 40’s, medium build, approximately 5’8″, wearing a black t-shirt, blue jeans, mirrored glasses, with short hair. The investigation is ongoing.
Arlington’s former police chief says disagreements with the County Board led him to seek an early retirement.
M. Jay Farr, who retired in September, wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette, which was published online today. In it, he refuted claims that he left amid agreements with Arlington’s new, reform-minded prosecutor.
“While it is true that Ms. Tafti and I did not look through the same lens all the time, we did strive to seek common ground wherever possible,” Farr wrote. “On those occasions where there was a difference of opinion, I found Ms. Tafti willing to consider the police department’s position. Overall, we had a very professional and respectful relationship.”
The former chief said his relationship with the County Board was not as positive.
Reference my retirement and early departure, I was in a deferred-retirement option that I entered into in December of 2017 and was obligated to depart the county in December of 2020. My decision to leave early was based entirely on my relationship with the Arlington County Board.
Board member Christen Dorsey’s comments regarding the Police Review Committee highlighted his concerns about the police department. He noted that this committee, a project out of the county manager’s office, once completed should finally provide recommendations for a police department that this community deserves. Not exactly a glowing endorsement of my efforts, or others’, over the past 30 years. It became apparent that the County Board and Mr. Dorsey were seeking to move in a different direction.
Farr added that he is “confident” that acting chief Andy Penn “is continuing to build a strong working relationship with the commonwealth’s attorney to provide the best service possible to the Arlington community.”
In an interview with ARLnow today, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that while the Board had disagreements with Farr, he was a “consummate professional” and there was mutual respect between Board members and the former chief.
Garvey said the Board does want some policing practices to change — a public process to review practices and suggest changes was launched after the killing of George Floyd and an increase in local use-of-force complaints — but noted the such changes are likely to be incremental.
“We want to step back and look at our policing,” Garvey said. “I think the whole country is looking at policing. We’re part of that. I think our community expects us to do that.”
“I don’t expect there to be a major change because I think we have an excellent police force… but we’re moving into a different era,” Garvey added. “Moving into the 21st century you need to look at how you’re doing things. Life changes.”
Asked about the rise in crime in the county, Garvey said that potential reforms like removing uniformed police from mental health calls and traffic enforcement duties could allow officers to better focus on reducing crime.
“You want to have a community that’s strong and safe, I think we have that and we’re working to continue that,” she said.
As for disagreements among the police department, the County Board, and the prosecutor’s office, Garvey said it is healthy to have people from different backgrounds and perspectives hash out issues “in a professional and respectful way.”
“You don’t want groupthink where everyone agrees and thinks things are fine all the time,” she said. “I think the fact that there are some disagreements is a healthy thing — it’s about how you work them out.”
Royal Pawn in Crystal City was burglarized this week by a pair of thieves who smashed their way in and stole a number of valuables.
The burglary happened early Tuesday morning. Police were dispatched to the store at 507 23rd Street S. around 4 a.m.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that two suspects forced entry to a business, causing damage, and stole numerous items of value,” according to the Arlington County Police Department.
“Suspect One is described as a male, 18-25 years old, 170-190 lbs., wearing a black mask, hoodie with the hood up, sweat pants, white sneakers, and wearing gloves,” ACPD said. “Suspect Two is described as a Black male, 18-25 years old, 160-170 lbs., wearing a white mask, a jacket with the hood up, pants, white sneakers, carrying a backpack, and wearing gloves.”
The suspects reportedly fled in a dark-colored Dodge Challenger.
Royal Pawn opened its 23rd Street location in Crystal City in 2017, replacing the former Grill Kabob restaurant. Alexander Rizer, vice president of the family-owned company — which some might recognize from its cable TV commercials that air during football games — said that he’s worried about a recent increase in crime.
“It seems more like the police department in the area has been stifled and has not been able to do their full duties,” Rizer said, adding that he has “nothing against the police department.”
“What it used to be before, we’d see Arlington PD going up and down the streets, everything was taken care of,” he explained. “Now we’re not seeing that as often anymore. Now we’re having to take measures into securing spaces much heavier.”
“We’ve made some drastic changes and it won’t be happening again, I can tell you that,” Rizer said of the burglary.
The store is currently “100% open” for business, he noted.
Jo DeVoe contributed to this report. Photo via Google Maps.
(Updated at noon) The Arlington County Circuit Court rejected a plea bargain that would place a Maryland man on two years of probation for allegedly bringing 50 pounds of marijuana and 400 cartridges of hashish oil into the county.
The suspect is accused of arriving on a flight to Reagan National Airport in November 2018 with a checked bag stuffed with drugs. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority at baggage claim.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and the attorney representing the alleged drug carrier agreed that the defendant would plead guilty to two felony charges and be placed on probation, wrote the presiding judge. After completing the probation and 200 hours of community service, he would be able to withdraw the pleas to the felony charges and instead plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges while having a $100 fine imposed but then suspended.
Judge Daniel Fiore, II, in a memorandum of opinion that was obtained by ARLnow, said the punishment would not deter the defendant, or anyone else, from carrying large amounts of drugs into Virginia for distribution.
“Virginia jurisprudence has long and consistently recognized deterrence as means for a court to determine an appropriate sentence, no matter the criminal statute violated,” Fiore wrote. “Deterrence disincentives unlawful behavior both for the individual and for society.”
Excerpts of Fiore’s opinion were published in late September in Virginia Lawyers Weekly. A call to judge’s chambers was not returned. Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow that she could not comment on the case at this point.
This rejected bargain is part of a larger theater taking place across the nation, as some prosecutors are changing their approach to drug crimes and judges are fighting back. The tug-of-war reached Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed a law last month that would require judges to dismiss charges when both the prosecution and defense agree to a bargain or deal.
Fiore wrote that he rejected the bargain in part because the prosecution and defense had understated how much marijuana and hashish the defendant had. The amounts, once disclosed, merited prison sentences between five and 40 years and fines of up to $500,000, Fiore wrote.
Focusing on the quantity of drugs strikes Public Defender Brad Haywood as a bit naive, considering the defendant was likely a low-level “drug mule” put in a high-risk situation by higher-level drug traffickers. He might not have known the quantity of drugs he was carrying, as mules often do not, Haywood said in an email, adding that mules are often thought of as victims of drug trafficking.
“They are under duress; fearful for their safety, desperate for money, or desperate to feed their own addictions,” he said. “They are easy to manipulate precisely because they are suffering. They can even be pressured into doing something as irrational as traveling on a plane with tons of narcotics.”
Given the risk involved, mules are often caught, Haywood said. Instead of harshly prosecuting mules, however, the government frequently offers them leniency so they can help apprehend the supplier.
A study by a criminal justice consulting firm recommends that Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church keep the Northern Virginia Detention Center, but with some changes.
Over the last decade, detention rates have decreased at the facility, located at 200 S. Whiting Street in Alexandria. It has 70 beds but on any given day houses 20 to 25 youth detainees — from age 11 to 18 — who have committed anything from parole violations to felony offenses.
Recently, officials have been weighing the future of the center, which is falling apart and costly to run. During a joint work session with representatives from Arlington and Alexandria on Monday, D.C.-based criminal justice consulting firm The Moss Group recommended keeping the center, but making it more efficient by moving more programs to the facility and eliminating some staff.
“It is a complex, aging facility, but it is available for other options when you’re thinking about the future of the compound,” said Reginald Wilkinson, the senior advisor for The Moss Group.
In an email, Arlington County said keeping the center open — as opposed to transferring detainees to a facility elsewhere — would “ensure juveniles remain close to their home communities and services.”
The report recommended placing mental-health treatment, substance-abuse services, youth mentoring and specialized placement programs in underused spaces in the facility, which would help make it more financially feasible to maintain.
It also suggested redesigning the facility to accommodate the new services and create a “home-like” feeling.
Cutting some staff and making the program changes could save nearly $600,000 annually, The Moss Group found. That would mean a savings of about $300,000 from Arlington’s current $1.8 million annual commitment.
NVJDC is the second most expensive detention center among Virginia’s 24 facilities, and was allocated $5.8 million to run in Fiscal Year 2020. Of that, about $3.6 million came from localities and $2.2 million from state and federal funding.
A possible alternative would be moving kids to the Fairfax County detention center, but Justin Wilson, the mayor of Alexandria, said Fairfax likely will not take the teens. The mayor said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay told him “the door is not closed, but that the hill is steep.”
The right political movement could change that, Wilson added.
“I think there is some logic to working together again, given [extra] capacity” at the Fairfax County facility, he said. Fairfax County operated the NVJDC with Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church before opening its own center in 1994.
Consultants conducted focus groups, interviews and community meetings, and hosted an online survey to gauge support for the center. Although some people want to see it closed, the group concluded there is widespread community support for the center.
The finding raised eyebrows among some political officials. Others asked about opportunities to eliminate juvenile detentions altogether.
“I think there might be a desire to move toward zero detention by closing down that facility,” Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol said. “Certainly I… am interested in pursuing that vision of zero youth detention.”
Arlington’s Director of Court Services Earl Conklin said that without a detention center a judge could still order detention but the youth would have no place to go.
The Moss Group told the municipalities to consider a formal relationship with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and participate in its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to reduce reliance on detention.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey applauded the decline in detention rates but said reforms are essential. About 57% kids in the system are Black, while 39% are white. In terms of ethnicity, just over 30% are identified as Hispanic.
“It is our young people of color who are most impacted by this detention facility,” she said. “We would like to do away with [this] disproportionality and continue to lower the number of people there, but there will always be a need for this facility or something like it, and that’s why we’re here.”
The study will be presented at a virtual community meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. The meeting link will be available on the study webpage.
Arlington County police arrested a man over the weekend after he allegedly tried to force his way into the home of a woman who opened her door to see if he needed help.
The incident happened around 1:45 a.m. Sunday on the 3100 block of 9th Street N., near Clarendon.
Police say the 22-year-old man was drunk when he started to damage items outside the home and then pushed the victim in an attempt to enter the home.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
UNLAWFUL ENTRY, 2020-10180035, 3100 block of 9th Street N. At approximately 1:45 a.m. on October 18, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside her residence when she heard noise at her door and observed the male suspect outside. As the victim opened the door to see if the suspect was in need of assistance, he requested to be let inside and kicked a shoe and his phone into the residence. As the victim attempted to retrieve the items, the suspect allegedly began to damage the victim’s property outside, then pushed the victim as he attempted to enter the residence. The victim fought back and yelled for assistance, at which point neighbor came to the aid of the victim and chased the suspect out of the building. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect had also entered another residence in the building. Kyle Lewis, 22, of Chantilly, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault and Battery, Unlawful Entry, and Drunk in Public.
Also in the most recent ACPD crime report, police are investigating Saturday morning robberies in Crystal City and Rosslyn.
ROBBERY, 2020-10170061, 1400 block of Crystal Drive. At approximately 3:17 a.m. on October 17, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that when the two victims came outside to meet the suspect, she exited her vehicle and demanded money from them. As Victim One pulled out an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect struck him with a closed fist and grabbed the money. The suspect then turned to Victim Two, who initially declined to provide money, and became angered. Victim Two produced an undisclosed amount of cash, which the suspect grabbed, then fled in the vehicle prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Black female, 6’2″ to 6’4″, and 300 lbs. The vehicle is described as a gray Mercedes hatchback. The investigation is ongoing.
ROBBERY, 2020-10170094, 1100 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 9:56 a.m. on October 17, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business and began selecting merchandise. The victim approached the suspect telling him to pay for the merchandise, at which point a physical altercation ensued. The suspect pushed the victim and grabbed his eyeglasses, causing them to break, then selected additional merchandise and fled the business prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a White male, approximately 6’0″, 220 lbs., wearing a dark gray hoodie, camouflage shorts, with black and yellow sneakers. The investigation is ongoing.
Arlington County Police are investigating a robbery and an attempted robbery that happened along the Columbia Pike corridor over the weekend.
In both incidents, the victims were pushed to the ground while walking, by a man who then tried to steal their belongings.
The first incident happened just before 8 p.m. on Saturday, north of the Pike in the Arlington Mill neighborhood. The suspect was armed with a gun and ran off with the victim’s phone.
From an ACPD crime report:
ROBBERY, 2020-10100188, 800 block of S. Frederick Street. At approximately 7:50 p.m. on October 10, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when he was approached by the male suspect from behind. The suspect grabbed the victim, pulling him down, and demanded money. When the victim declined, the suspect produced a firearm, assaulted the victim and stole his phone, then fled on foot. The victim sustained minor injuries. The suspect is described as a Black male, 5’10”, thin build, wearing black clothing and a black mask. The investigation is ongoing.
The second incident was an attempted robbery in Barcroft Park, south of the Pike. It happened at almost exactly the same time as the first incident, but a day later.
ATTEMPTED ROBBERY, 2020-10110170, 4200 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 7:51 p.m. on October 11, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking on a path through the park when the suspect approached her from behind, pushed her to the ground, and attempted to steal her backpack unsuccessfully. The suspect fled prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a male, approximately 5’8″, wearing a black hoodie with the hood up and dark jeans. The investigation is ongoing.
Also over the weekend, two police officers were injured in two separate incidents involving unruly suspects Saturday morning.
VEHICLE TAMPERING/RECOVERED STOLEN VEHICLE (significant), 2020-10100028, 2400 block of S. Oakland Street. At approximately 1:22 a.m. on October 10, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering with auto. Arriving officers observed three suspects inside of a vehicle matching the description previously provided in a lookout. The suspects allegedly exited the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot when police approached them. Suspect One was stopped as they exited the vehicle. Suspect Two was located in the area by additional arriving officers, and, while attempting to place her in handcuffs, she actively resisted and a brief struggle ensued, during which she bit an officer. The officer sustained minor injury. While taking Suspect Two into custody, Suspect Three was observed by officers in the area and taken into custody without incident. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the vehicle the suspects fled from was previously reported stolen out of Fairfax County. A petition for Assault and Battery on Police was obtained for juvenile Suspect Two. Additional petitions will be sought for all three juvenile suspects.
ASSAULT & BATTERY ON POLICE, 2020-10100104, 4700 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 9:34 a.m. on October 10, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that a verbal dispute between the suspect and victim escalated, at which point the suspect allegedly pushed the victim and threw an object at the victim’s vehicle. As the victim attempted to move his vehicle away from the scene while calling police, the suspect chased after the car and threw a cup at it. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident. The victim was not injured. While officers were attempting to place the suspect into a transport vehicle, he actively resisted and became aggressive, then kicked the door of the vehicle, causing it to strike an officer in the head. The officer sustained minor injury. John Hemphill, 52, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault and Battery on Police, Assault and Battery, Obstruction of Justice and Destruction of Property. He was held on no bond.
A 25-year-old Arlington man is behind bars after police say he broke into a hotel room early this morning and assaulted a woman inside.
The incident happened around 2 a.m. on the 1600 block of Arlington Blvd, which is home to the Inn of Rosslyn motel.
Arlington County police say the man banged on the locked door of the hotel room before forcing his way in and grabbing the woman “around the upper torso.” She fled and called police. The suspect was later spotted by officers banging on another building door in Rosslyn and taken into custody, police said.
More from today’s ACPD crime report:
BURGLARY, 2020-09230019, 1600 block of Arlington Boulevard. At approximately 1:48 a.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 1:40 a.m. the victim was awoken by noise from the suspect allegedly banging on the door to a secured hotel room. The suspect subsequently forced entry to the room, causing damage, and grabbed the woman around the upper torso. The victim was able to free herself from the suspect, who then fled on foot. Arriving officers established a perimeter, canvased the area, and a K9 track was conducted. At approximately 2:07 a.m., police were dispatched to the 1700 block of N. Quinn Street, where a male matching the suspect description was banging on the door to a building. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect had also caused damage to a shed located outside of the building on Quinn Street. Nomin-Erdene Begzjav, 25, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Burglary with Intent to Commit Assault, Assault & Battery, and Destruction of Property (x2). He was held on no bond.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Police Department has released its annual report, which paints a mixed picture of rising overall crime with decreases in certain types of offenses and a shrinking police force.
ACPD’s 2019 Annual Report says that crime in Arlington “remains historically low,” but the county “experienced an overall increase in 2019 which was marked particularly by vehicle-related property crimes.” Over the past year police have responded to a string of vehicle break-ins around the county, but have also been making arrests.
“The work of officers to proactively patrol Arlington’s neighborhoods to identify and prevent criminal activity and conduct follow-up investigations resulted in a number of significant arrests,” the report says.
Crime, grouped into “Group A Offense Totals” and the more minor “Group B Arrests,” rose to 7,985 and 1,324, respectively, from 7,313 and 1,209 the year prior, according to the report
The year saw increases in the number of reported simple assaults, motor vehicle thefts, larcenies, robberies and public drunkenness charges. There were decreases in sex offenses, abductions, prostitution charges, and DUIs. Murders fell from four in 2018 to two in 2019.
The police force shrunk, albeit slightly, from 2018 to 2019 amid recruiting challenges. The new report lists a sworn police force of 343, down from 353 the year prior. Both figures are below the authorized sworn force of 370.
In the report, the police department notes that it is working towards a goal of a more diverse police force. As of 2019, 10.8% of officers were Black, 8.7% were Hispanic, and 74.1% were white.
In order to provide the best professional law enforcement services to the Arlington Community, we strive to hire personnel that reflect our community’s demographics. Our Personnel and Recruitment Unit works diligently to seek individuals from all backgrounds who possess the necessary qualifications to serve Arlington. While we recognize the police department’s demographic data does not perfectly match that of the Arlington community, recent hires since January 2018 show a positive trend towards aligning more closely with our demographics. The Department requires sixty semester hours of college credit or prior military or law enforcement service, however, a significant majority of our sworn staff hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
Written amid nationwide protests over police killings, as well as local calls for police reform, the report contains a letter from Chief M. Jay Farr pledging to do more to win the trust of Arlingtonians.
While the department has a longstanding history of proactively engaging with the community, we recognize there is still more work to be done to ensure the trust and confidence of those we serve. The tragic death of Mr. George Floyd has sparked a national conversation around policing in America. We are committed to continuing to work with the community to hear your concerns, build a diverse workforce, train our officers to de-escalate situations, and ensure accountability and transparency. I can assure you that each and every day, our officers work to provide the level of service that is not only expected but reflected by this community.
Farr is planning to retire by the end of the year.