Arlington, VA

ARLnow is moving to remove old crime reports from internet searches.

After a review of past articles, we made the decision to keep the crime report articles on our site, but to mark each as pages that should not be indexed by Google, Bing and others.

In years past, Arlington County Police published a weekly crime report summary that ARLnow, in turn, reproduced, highlighting the more significant items. More recently, ARLnow compiled daily crime reports into a weekly post, the last of which was published on Aug. 1, 2019.

The problem is that along with the more significant items, crime reports would sometimes report on arrests for minor, nonviolent crimes — including the names of criminal suspects — without a mechanism in place to eventually remove such names from the record.

The decision to remove these posts from search engine visibility will not affect articles on individual crimes, which typically highlighted more serious incidents like robberies, stabbings and murders. It will, however, give dozens of nonviolent offenders a better chance at moving on with their lives after paying their debt to society — and that’s not to mention incidents in which someone was arrested but never convicted.

The ethics of nonviolent crime reporting at local outlets across the country have been under scrutiny in recent months. Crime reporters are reevaluating basic norms such as publishing the names and faces of offenders who pose little physical threat to the community.

Many who have spoken on the topic argue that these crime reports live on long after the offender they describe has paid the price for their crime — making it difficult to for the offender to move on with their lives. In an op-ed for the Guardian, former crime reporter Hunter Pauli writes about his decision to quit his job because of questions he had about the informative value of some crime reports and the impact on people’s lives.

“If you do a Google search for [the offender’s] name, the first results are stories about his alleged crimes,” Pauli wrote. “How is he supposed to get a legitimate job when a potential employer takes a cursory glance at his name? How is he expected to make an honest living and stay out of trouble?”

ARLnow has an existing crime report policy in place that provides for a review process if someone named in a crime article would like to request removal of their name:

If you have been arrested for a crime and have been found innocent or had the charges dropped, we will, upon request and at our sole discretion, consider removing your name from any articles we have published and requesting that Google update the page in their cache. We will also consider name removal for minor crimes that occurred more than 4 years ago.

If you would like to request name removal, please email us at [email protected] with your name, a link to the article in question, and proof of the court verdict or case status. Processing this request may take several weeks.

Our decision-making in these cases attempts to find a balance between the public interest of knowing about past criminal incidents and the private interest of individuals seeking to clear their name or move on from past mistakes. Note that all such emails will be reviewed, but we may not be able to reply to every message received, regardless of the ultimate outcome.

Shreeya Aranake contributed to this report. Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf.

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Arlington County Police are continuing their crackdown on thefts and robberies in Pentagon City parking garages.

Police have stepped up patrols in the area after a series of armed carjackings and other crimes in shopping center garages. On Saturday evening, those extra patrols may have helped stop a trio of alleged, would-be thieves.

Three juvenile suspects were taken into custody following a foot chase, after they were seen pulling on car door handles in a garage along Army Navy Drive, according to police. The address is in the area of both the mall and the Pentagon Row shopping center.

More from an ACPD crime report:

VEHICLE TAMPERING (Significant), 2020-02290159, 800 block of Army Navy Drive. At approximately 5:22 p.m. on February 29, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering with auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that a witness allegedly observed three suspects pulling on door handles of parked vehicles inside a garage. An arriving officer observed the suspects attempting to leave the scene in a stolen vehicle and activated his emergency equipment to stop the vehicle. Upon seeing police, the suspects fled from the vehicle on foot. Following a brief foot pursuit, all three suspects were apprehended. Petitions are being sought for the juvenile suspects.

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A pair of incidents at Arlington’s two shopping malls led to four arrests and charges against six people.

The first incident happened Wednesday afternoon at the Pentagon City mall. Around 3 p.m., according to Arlington County Police, two juvenile suspects shoplifted from a store and were soon thereafter located by officers at the Pentagon City Metro station. One of the suspects lashed out violently, spitting on and hitting officers, according to police.

More from an ACPD crime report:

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2020-02190151, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 2:56 p.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of shoplifting. Upon arrival, it was determined that suspects allegedly entered a business, stole items of value, and fled on foot. A lookout was broadcast and arriving officers located the juvenile suspects on the metro platform. One suspect actively resisted by pushing, elbowing and spitting on the two arresting officers. Once detained, she continued to resist and kicked two additional officers. Petitions for Assault and Battery on Police (x4) and Obstruction of Justice were sought for Suspect One. Petitions for Petit Larceny, Fugitive from Justice and Identity Theft were sought for Suspect Two.

Later Wednesday evening, four juvenile suspects allegedly shoplifted from a store at the Ballston Quarter mall. A security officer who tried to chase after and stop the group was pepper sprayed by one of the suspects, police say.

In coordination with Metro Transit Police, two suspects were later taken into custody at the Rosslyn Metro station.

From the crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING BY CAUSTIC SUBSTANCE, 2020-02190225, 700 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:26 p.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with injury. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was working as loss prevention for a business when he observed a group of juvenile suspects allegedly selecting and concealing merchandise. When he attempted to stop the group as they exited the business, they fled. The victim attempted to chase the suspects when one suspect allegedly dropped the merchandise he had, then pepper sprayed the victim. A lookout was broadcast and officers located and made contact with the suspects at the Rosslyn Metro Station and, with the assistance of Metro Transit Police, took them into custody without incident. Petitions were obtained for Suspect One for Malicious Wounding by Caustic Agent, Robbery, Grand Larceny and Possession of Burglarous Tools. Petitions for Conspiracy to Commit Felony and Grand Larceny were obtained for Suspect Two. Two additional suspects remain outstanding.

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A 25-year-old man is in custody after police say he attacked a woman in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood near Pentagon City.

The alleged attack happened around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 18th Street S. and S. Ives Street.

Police say the man wielded a knife as he knocked the victim to the ground, with the intent of sexually molesting her. The woman fought back and the suspect was ultimately scared off by a witness. Officers located a man matching the suspect description nearby and took him into custody.

More from an ACPD crime report:

ABDUCTION WITH THE INTENT TO DEFILE, 2020-02110202, 18th Street S. at S. Ives. At approximately 7:23 p.m. on February 11, police were dispatched to the report of an assault that just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when she heard someone behind her. The victim turned and confronted the suspect who allegedly knocked her to the ground, brandished a knife and assaulted the victim. A witness yelled at the suspect, causing him to flee the scene on foot. Responding officers located an individual matching the suspect description and he was later positively identified. The victim suffered minor injuries. William Peoples, 25, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Abduction with the Intent to Defile and Carrying a Concealed Weapon. He was held without bail.

Abduction with the Intent to Defile is a serious, infrequently charged crime that, if convicted, is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

This was the fourth notable criminal incident in the Pentagon City area since Sunday.

Map via Google Maps

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It’s been another busy few days for police in Pentagon City.

The neighborhood has been the scene of at least three armed carjackings in local parking garages over the past month, in addition to armed robberies and the usual steady flow of thefts from stores at the Pentagon City mall and other local shopping centers.

The criminal activity continued Sunday afternoon, when police arrested a man they say was breaking into parked cars in or near the Pentagon Row shopping center. More from Arlington County Police:

GRAND LARCENY (Significant), 2020-02090157, 900 block of Army Navy Drive. At approximately 3:40 p.m. on February 9, an officer on patrol observed a suspicious suspect looking into parked vehicles. The suspect allegedly attempted to enter a vehicle by pulling on the door’s handles before breaking the rear driver’s side door window and stealing a backpack in plain view. The suspect fled the scene on foot and was located by a responding officer inside the metro station. The suspect refused to comply with the officer’s lawful commands and attempted to flee the scene on foot. Upon arrival of additional units, the suspect was taken into custody without incident. Harvey Jones, 24, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Possession of Burglarous Tools, Grand Larceny: Theft from Motor Vehicle, and Destruction of Property. He was also determined to be wanted out of North Carolina. He was held on no bond.

On Monday evening, meanwhile, also in the area of Pentagon Row, a woman was assaulted and robbed of her phone by a pair of young, female suspects. More from ACPD:

ROBBERY, 2020-02100201, 1300 block of S. Joyce Street. At approximately 5:42 p.m. on February 10, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that as the victim exited a business, she passed the two female suspects, who began shouting at her. The victim continued walking, however the suspects began chasing her. The suspects assaulted the victim and stole her phone, then fled prior to police arrival. Suspect one is described as a juvenile or young adult female, approximately 14-18 years old, short, thin, with curly shoulder-length hair, wearing black pants, a black jacket and white and black shoes. Suspect Two is described as as a juvenile or young adult female, approximately 14-18 years old, approximately 5’4″-5’8″, with a chubby build, wearing jeans, a white shirt and a black and orange jacket. The investigation is ongoing.

Last night (Tuesday), an incident at the intersection of S. Joyce Street and 15th Street S., near one of the entrances to the mall’s parking garage, drew another large police response. Police said only that an “assault occurred following a dispute” and the activity was unrelated to the carjackings.

As of last week ABC 7 reported that there had been five armed robberies in the Pentagon City area so far this year, compared to 7 last year and 5 in 2018.

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Morning Notes

EFC Metro Closing This Weekend — The Vienna, Dunn Loring and East Falls Church Metro stations will be closed this weekend, “due to preparation for the Summer Platform Improvement Project.” Per Metro: “Customers on Ballston-bound Orange Line trains who are continuing on to West Falls Church should exit the train at Virginia Square for a same platform transfer.” [WMATA]

Pentagon City Armed Robbery Spike — “So far in 2020, there have been five total armed robberies in Pentagon City. Last year, there were seven for the entire year.” In response to the recent string of parking garage carjackings, Pentagon City mall says “we have increased our security presence to ensure a safe and secure environment.” [WJLA]

Arlington’s Ultra-Low Unemployment Rate — “How low can it go? That may be the question for Arlington’s unemployment rate. The jobless figure squeezed down to 1.6 percent in December, ending the year at its lowest rate of 2019 and – for the umpteenth month and year in a row – lowest in the commonwealth.” [InsideNova]

NFL Star Returns to Arlington — “M. J. Stewart, @Buccaneers Cornerback and Arlington native stopped by his alma mater @APSVirginia!” [Twitter]

Arlington Dems Want Record Turnout — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee is aiming to increase the community’s  2020 voter-participation rate nearly 10 percent from 2016’s presidential race, building on past efforts and launching new initiatives to get there. ‘We’re pulling out all the stops,’ party chair Jill Caiazzo said on Feb. 5.” [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Pupatella Coming to D.C. — “The rumors are true: Pupatella will bring its wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas to Dupont Circle, occupying the prime indoor/outdoor space that housed Rosemary’s Thyme for nearly 18 years. Owner and Naples native Enzo Algarme says his team is angling for a spring opening.” [Washingtonian, PoPville]

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Arlington County Police are looking for a woman who agreed to give a man a ride but then reportedly robbed him.

Police say an officer was flagged down by the man just after 9:30 p.m. Sunday, on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road, in the area of the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

The man told police that just minutes earlier he had approached the woman in a parking lot and asked her for a ride to his home. The alleged robbery happened after she agreed and he got in.

“When the victim entered the vehicle, she requested compensation,” police said in a crime report. “As the victim pulled out his wallet, the suspect assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of cash and other items of value from him.”

“The suspect subsequently fled the area in the vehicle,” the crime report continues. “The suspect is described as a white female, approximately 40 years old, with long brown hair. The vehicle is described as an older model gray pick-up truck. The investigation is ongoing.”

Also in the latest crime report, a wanted suspect arrested on a theft charge in Pentagon City is accused of kicking and threatening officers. More from ACPD, below after the jump.

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A pharmacy owner with stores in Arlington and Alexandria has been sentenced to four years behind bars for falsifying insurance claims and illegally dispensing opioids.

Latif Mohamed Chowdhury, 29, was sentenced to prison on Friday after law enforcement accused him of running a get rich quick scheme by billing insurance companies for prescriptions he never filled, and in some cases, were never prescribed by a doctor to the patient. Officials say Chowdhury, who did not have a pharmacy license, dispensed medications and billed insurance companies at his two pharmacies between August 2015 and February 2016 using identities he had stolen from licensed pharmacists.

“Chowdhury blithely violated his position of trust,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement last week.

Federal prosecutors said Chowdhury pocketed $500,000 from his fraudulent billing and illegally dispensed “a significant number” of opioid and other medications.

Officials also said in the course of their investigation they found Chowdhury had given opioids to seven-year-old children “outside the usual course of professional practice.”

While searching one of the pharmacies, officials said they found Chowdhury had left a loaded Colt .38 revolver on one of the store’s shelves.

The Arlington pharmacy (called ACP-2) was located at 611 S. Carlin Springs Road, at the Virginia Hospital Center campus that is being acquired by Arlington County in a land swap. The Alexandria pharmacy (ACP-1) was located at 8330 Richmond Highway.

“Although one of Chowdhury’s family members owned ACP-2, Chowdhury in fact operated, managed, directed, and controlled ACP-2 from in or around January 2015 through in or around February 2016. ACP-2 was shut down for business in March 2016,” Matthew Nestopoulos, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told ARLnow.

On his LinkedIn, Chowdhury listed experience working in information technology — including eight months at the Pentagon — before leaving the field and opening the two pharmacists.

“In 2013 I began to venture towards opening a business and work alongside my career to grow Alexandria Care Pharmacy which has now been successfully operating for two years,” he wrote.

His most recent post included a call to hire “full-time background investigators” for a new business venture.

“We are committed to protecting the public and the people of Virginia,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division. “We will continue to track down and bring to justice criminals who are fueling the opiate crisis at every level including pill writers, pill fillers, and drug dealers in the area.”

Friday’s sentencing came after Chowdhury pled guilty in July.

Flickr photo by Joe Gratz

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Officials and activists are asking the county courts to make a newly-proposed mental health jail diversion program more inclusive.

Arlington and Fairfax public defenders joined several advocates during a Thursday evening meeting about the proposal, and urged county officials to broaden the mental illnesses diagnoses accepted in the program and not require plea bargains as a participation requirement.

Brad Haywood, who leads the Office of the Public Defender for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, shared a list of changes his office wants the county to make to the proposal before the county submits the application to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Juliet Hiznay, a special education attorney by training, joined him on Thursday to express concern that only some “serious mental illnesses” were considered shoe-ins for the program, which is called the Behavioral Health Docket.

Hiznay said she was worried that people with developmental disabilities (like ADD or autism) could also benefit from the court-supervised treatment plan, but would be considered “exceptions” under the current eligibility criteria.

Much of the evening focused on discussing whether the county should require participants to plead guilty to their charges before participating in the program (as is currently proposed) or allow them to follow the docket program and then have a trail (as Fairfax County does.)

“Because it requires a guilty plea it literally can’t decriminalize mental illness,” said panelist Lisa Dailey, who analyzes and advises mental illness decriminalization policies at the Treatment Advocacy Center. “So if that’s your goal you’re failing right out of the gate.”

When Arlington Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lisa Tingle asked Fairfax Public Defender Dawn Butorac asks whether the Fairfax docket convicts participants of their charges if they fail out of the program, Butorac said Fairfax prosecutors set no such deals.

“Telling your client ‘if you fail this is what we’re going to do’ is sending the wrong message,” Butorac said.

Haywood pointed out that another benefit of nixing the pre-plea requirement was getting people into treatment fast — something not possible if the county’s tedious discovery process slows down the process.

Haywood also noted that requiring pleas to participate in the mental health service could lead innocent people to say they were guilty in order to access services. He acknowledged that was an “extreme” hypothetical but could be avoided if the county followed Fairfax County’s example of only contending with pleas after a participant finishes their docket treatment plan.

“We are much more inclusive than Arlington,” Butorac said of Fairfax’s docket, which was created after a mentally ill woman was tasered.  “When we drafted it, we wanted it to be as inclusive as possible.”

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Arlington prosecutors are pressing charges against a Virginia State Police sergeant accused of accidentally firing a gun and not reporting the incident.

Steven Mittendorff is set to go on trial for the charges in the Arlington Circuit Court on October 10, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos told ARLnow today (Monday.)

“On July 30, 2019, the Virginia State Police charged Steven R. Mittendorff, 39, of Prince William County with one misdemeanor count of reckless handling of a firearm and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

“The charges stem from an unreported, accidental discharge of a firearm inside a Virginia State Police area office in June 2019,” she added. “No one was injured in the incident.”

VSP maintains an office at 1426-A Columbia Pike, near I-395.

The alleged incident occurred on June 10, 2019, per court records. Last week, a local grand jury decided that the prosecution’s evidence against Mittendorff was strong enough to merit a trial.

Mittendorff was previously in the news after calling for Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers to resign, following the death of his wife. Nicole Mittendorf, took her own life after being the victim of alleged cyberbullying by her Fairfax firefighter colleagues, who reportedly posted sexually explicit comments about in her online web forums.

Mittendorff is a 1st Sergeant in charge of Virginia State Police Area 45, which includes Arlington, and was hired in 2002.

“In accordance with Department policy, he has been placed on leave without pay pending the outcome of the court process,” said Geller.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos declined further comment on the case.

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A waitress at the Ballston IHOP restaurant was robbed of cash on a weekday morning this week.

The alleged crime happened around 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday. Police say a man approached the waitress and “stole a billfold containing an undisclosed amount of cash from her hand,” before running off.

More from Arlington County Police:

LARCENY, 2019-07300101, 900 block of N. Stafford Street. At approximately 10:45 a.m. on July 30, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the male suspect approached a waitress and stole a billfold containing an undisclosed amount of cash from her hand. The suspect then fled the scene on foot. The suspect is described as a black male in his 20s wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. The investigation is ongoing.

More from this past week’s ACPD crime report is below, after the jump.

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