Arlington, VA

This Saturday, local residents can drop off their expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs in Arlington for safe disposal.

The Arlington County Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration is offering contactless, drive-thru disposal of pills and patches from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at police department headquarters (1425 N. Courthouse Road) and Fire Station No. 5 (1750 S. Hayes Street). It’s part of a nationwide effort by the DEA.

“This disposal service is free and anonymous, no questions asked,” ACPD said in a news release. “This is the DEA’s 19th nationwide event since its inception 10 years ago.”

The program comes as the number of police-investigated opioid incidents in 2020 has surpassed those in 2019, with 16 fatal overdoses so far this year — nearly equal to that of the past two years combined.

First responders have been working to counter the overdose trend. In the first seven months of 2020, officers using Narcan helped nine people recover from opioid overdoses.

“Based upon the preliminary investigations into these incidents, police suspect the deaths are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl,” said ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark. “While the investigation into these incidents has revealed no direct evidence that the increase is fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely a factor given timing, the loss of income and jobs and the isolation of stay-at-home orders.”

The pandemic forced the police department to cancel the spring iteration of the drug take-back event, which is normally held twice annually. This Saturday, all participants are expected to practice physical distancing and wear a face covering while dropping off items for disposal.

Upon arrival, participants should stay in their vehicle until they reach the unloading areas, where officers will be on hand to take items for disposal. A separate area will be available for those arriving by bike or foot.

The event does not accept liquids, nor needles and syringes, collectively known as “sharps.”

“For those looking to dispose of sharps, Arlington County recommends placing the item in hard plastic container such as detergent bottle, cap securely and place in trash cart,” the news release said. “Do not put this container in your recycling.”

During the take-back event in October 2019, 211 pounds of medications were collected, Clark said.

Arlington County has four permanent drug take-back boxes available. To date, these boxes have collected 1,572 pounds of medications in 2020, and nearly 5,068 pounds of prescription drugs since they were installed in June 2018.

The public can safely dispose of prescription medications, ointments and patches, pet medications, vitamins and over-the-counter medications 24/7, “no questions asked,” at the following locations:

  • Fire Station #2 (4805 Wilson Blvd.)
  • Fire Station #5 (1750 S. Hayes Street)
  • Fire Station #9 (1900 S. Walter Reed Drive)
  • Arlington County Police Department (1425 N. Courthouse Road)
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A SWAT raid prompted a large police presence just north of Ballston this morning.

At least one lane of N. Glebe Road was blocked as Arlington County police executed a search warrant at a home near the corner of Glebe and 13th Street N., in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. Numerous police vehicles and a fire department vehicle could be seen in the area.

The police activity has now largely cleared out.

ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the deployment was “part of an ongoing narcotics investigation.”

There were at least two other drug-related SWAT actions earlier this year in Arlington, although it’s unclear if either are related to today’s raid.

In February a man was arrested after a SWAT team swarmed a condo complex across from the Virginia Square Metro station. In March ACPD tactical teams took several people into custody after surrounding a vehicle in a parking lot near Columbia Pike, as part of a narcotics investigation.

Courtesy photo

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Arlington County police are again sounding the alarm about opioid abuse and its dangers.

In a press release, ACPD says that it is seeing a new “spike” in drug overdose deaths.

“In the month of August, the Arlington County Police Department has investigated five deaths as possible drug-related overdoses,” the department said in a press release today. “Based on the preliminary investigations, police suspect the deaths are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl. Due to the severity of this spike, members of the public who may be affected by addiction or opioid use are urged to take steps to protect themselves and others through available resources in Arlington.”

As ARLnow reported earlier this month, two people died of suspected overdoses in the Buckingham neighborhood on Aug. 2. Prior to that, Arlington had recorded 10 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, four more than in all of 2019.

On July 23, ACPD said its officers had saved nine people from overdoses so far this year via use of Nasal Naloxone — also known as Narcan.

Advice on recognizing, responding to and preventing overdoses, from today’s press release:

Signs of an Overdose

This is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation. If you observe someone experiencing the following overdose symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Vomiting or gurgling
  • Blue lips and/or fingernails
  • Not responsive or sleeping and cannot be woken up
  • Deep gurgling or rattling snore

Overdose Reversal

Arlington County first responders carry Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®), a safe and effective medication that can reverse an overdose from prescription painkillers or heroin. Narcan is available over the counter without a prescription. Arlingtonians can request free Narcan and REVIVE (Narcan) training by emailing the Department of Human Services.

Programs and Services

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

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Narcotics may have claimed two more lives in Arlington over the weekend.

Police removed two bodies from an apartment along N. George Mason Drive in the Buckingham neighborhood Sunday night, a local resident told ARLnow. A police spokeswoman tells us that the preliminary death investigation pointed to drugs as a likely cause.

“At approximately 6:52 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the 300 block of N. George Mason Drive for the report of a possible death,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“Upon arrival, an adult male and female were located deceased inside a residence,” Savage continued. “Based on the preliminary investigation, the deaths are being investigated as possible overdoses. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

Arlington has seen a resurgence in opioid overdoses and deaths this year, as the pandemic leaves people jobless and at home, exacerbating substance abuse issues. The surge threatens to reverse progress since the opioid crisis in Arlington peaked in 2017.

Two weeks ago, ACPD revealed that its officers had used life-saving Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses nine times so far this year. Prior to the weekend’s deaths, the county had recorded 38 opioid overdoses and 10 deaths so far this year, compared to 42 overdoses and 6 deaths for all of 2019.

More from a police press release:

Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019. The opioid crisis remains a significant issue facing our community. The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information and resources to promote awareness, prevention and action to ultimately save lives.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Arlington

Starting in 2016, the Arlington community began seeing a significant increase in the number of opioid overdoses and deaths reported in the County. To help individuals, families, parents and friends understand the risks associated with opioids and resources available to help with this growing crisis, Arlington developed the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI). AARI is a collaborative program comprised of stakeholders from across the county including treatment providers, first responders, the justice system, schools, the hospital, and non-profit organizations. The initiative takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid epidemic by focusing on prevention and education, addiction treatment, response and recovery and criminal investigation and enforcement. […]

Investigating Opioid-Related Incidents

Detectives from the police department’s Organized Crime Section assist with every opioid-related overdose and collaborate with detectives from the Homicide/Robbery Unit on fatal incidents to ensure a complete and thorough investigation. Prioritization has been placed on investigating cases involving heroin and opioids and identifying those that distribute dangerous controlled substances within our community. Whenever possible, overdose victims are referred to the DHS’ overdose outreach program for follow-up after an incident involving opioids. This referral system has led to an increase in the number of individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorders through County programs.

Additional Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington is rolling marijuana in with efforts to prevent opioid abuse, but some see the anti-weed campaign as outdated.

Nicole Merlene, a former state Senate candidate and an ARLnow columnist, noted on Twitter that Arlington is promoting a campaign called ‘NoWeedArlington.org’, which links back to a county health department page on the dangers of marijuana.

“Despite the fact that marijuana is legalized in many states, marijuana still poses many health risks including the risk for addiction,” the page says. “The surgeon general has put out a warning related to marijuana use – specifically related to the risks of marijuana use during adolescence.”

Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Arlington Department of Human Services, said the campaign is meant specifically to prevent marijuana use among children and teenagers, and is part of a larger effort to prevent opioid abuse.

“The ad is an awareness campaign against marijuana use by youth,” Larrick said. “The information conveyed in the message is directly from the current Surgeon General’s message of the negative impact of marijuana use on the adolescent developing brain. The correlation between early marijuana use and opioid abuse later in life is a commonly known fact within prevention/substance use literature.”

Larrick said the campaign was not launched in response to the impending decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia.

The movement towards decriminalizing marijuana has also taken hold at a local level, with Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti ousting an incumbent last year with promises to stop prosecuting marijuana cases, among other reforma. Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano was elected in Fairfax with a similar platform.

“This ad has nothing to do with ‘decriminalization’ or ‘legalization’ of marijuana,” Larrick said. “The ad was developed by [Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative] and Prevention with support/approval from DHS leadership. The ad is supported by SOR (State Opioid Response) funds and approved by the grant administrator.”

Larrick said the County’s position and its partnership with other local organizations is longstanding and also addresses other underage drug abuse issues.

“Arlington County, the Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, and our community partners — including the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, the Ready Coalition, and the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative have long been on the same page when it comes to the harmful impact of marijuana on the teenage brain,” Larrick said. “We have also partnered on initiatives related to underage drinking, smoking, and vaping.”

While the legalization of marijuana is lighting up across the U.S., the impacts of marijuana use on brain development remains a topic of study.

Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

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A search for a suspect wanted for armed robbery prompted police helicopter activity over Arlington early Thursday morning.

An officer spotted the wanted suspect near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Garfield Street in Clarendon shortly before 12:30 a.m. Upon seeing the officer about to make a traffic stop, the suspect pulled his car over, bailed out and took off running, according to Arlington County Police.

The Fairfax County Police helicopter was called in to help search for the suspect. Despite the chopper circling the area for some 30-60 minutes — as seen in the flight path map above — the suspect was not found and the search was called off.

While the suspect made a clean getaway, another vehicle occupant was arrested and charged with drug possession and identity theft, police said.

More from ACPD:

NARCOTICS VIOLATION (Significant), 2020-04090001, Wilson Boulevard at N. Garfield Street. At approximately 12:22 a.m. on April 9, an officer on patrol observed a vehicle believed to be occupied by a known wanted subject. As the officer prepared to make a traffic stop, the subject pulled his vehicle over and fled the scene on foot. A perimeter was established and the area was searched with the assistance of Fairfax County Police Helicopter. The search concluded with negative results. The subject is described as a Hispanic male in his 30s, approximately 5’7″ tall with dark facial hair. He was wearing glasses, a black hoodie, black shirt and jeans at the time of the incident. Two additional occupants of the vehicle were detained by officers on scene and, following the investigation, one was arrested and charged. Cindy Tosti, 29, of Alexandria, Va. was charged with Possession of a Scheduled I/II Controlled Substance and Identity Theft. She was held on no bond. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo courtesy Stephan P.

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Morning Notes

More Coronavirus-Related Dispatches — ARLnow is starting to hear the Arlington County Fire Department responding to more suspected COVID-19 cases. Medics were just dispatched to assist a 44-year-old woman with severe trouble breathing and other symptoms consistent with the disease.

May Could Be Worse Than April — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows. Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]

Prosecutors Have Video Evidence in Store Shooting — “The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office showed the judge security video from the Shirlington Road business, which prosecutors said captures Abushariah shooting one of the burglars ‘point-blank in the back…’ The prosecutor called the case a ‘callous disregard for human life’ because Abushariah had other options, such as hiding in the backroom and calling the police. Or running to safety out the back door.” [WJLA]

Arlington Resident’s YOLO Money Diary — “We then took some mushrooms around 12 PM and went on a long, trippy, and fun-filled walk through Rosslyn. We stopped at Northside Social for some pastries and a Bitburger beer while on our walk–more illegal public drinking, but we kind of just don’t care anymore.” [Washingtonian]

Two Green Pig Employees Test Positive — “We regret to inform you that two of our employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Both… had been working with customers assisting with order-pickups. Neither were working in the kitchen or with food prep.” [Instagram]

Bakeshop Now Mailing Some Items — Bakeshop in Clarendon is now taking orders of cookies, cream pies, bars and bread slices online. Orders are shipped on Mondays to ensure freshness. [Bakeshop]

Marymount Prof is 3D Printing Face Shields — “Marymount University professor Dr. Eric Bubar is getting in on the action, with hopes of utilizing his unique skills to make a difference. A longtime provider of 3D printed upper-limb assistive devices, he is now shifting his focus to creating 3D printed, reusable face shields for use at hospitals in Washington, D.C., New York and beyond.” [Press Release]

APS to Distribute Week of Meals to Families in Need — “On Fri, April 3, APS will provide a week’s worth of meals to families who come to one of the five grab-and-go meal distribution sites to ensure students have food during spring break. There will be no APS meal service provided April 6-10… Meal services will resume on Mon, April 13, with an expanded list of sites to include Key and Hoffman-Boston elementary schools. Additionally, the USDA has provided a waiver to the rule that children must be present to receive meals.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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(Updated at 9:55 p.m.) The coronavirus outbreak hasn’t held back the long arm of the law in Arlington.

Heavily-armed Arlington County Police tactical teams conducted a drug-related operation today, as seen in photos sent to ARLnow.

The incident pictured happened around 4:30 p.m. at the BB&T Bank parking lot (1100 S. Walter Reed Drive) near Columbia Pike. At least one person could be seen standing outside a car surrounded by officers dressed in camouflage uniforms.

A similar operation happened around 3 p.m. in the Green Valley neighborhood, according to a witness and a video reviewed by ARLnow.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow that “multiple individuals” into custody today as part of a “narcotics investigation.”

“The investigation is ongoing and there is no threat to public,” Savage said.

Additional details were not immediately available, and there’s no word on what charges, if any, will be filed against those in custody.

A similar amount of SWAT firepower was on display in February during another narcotics-related operation in the Virginia Square neighborhood.

Photos courtesy Michael Owings

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State Senator Adam Ebbin celebrated a win on Sunday as the Virginia legislature approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under the new legislation, recreational marijuana will remain illegal, but the penalty is reduced to a $25 civil fine rather than the current penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The decriminalization also includes hash and oil concentrates, of which it is currently a felony to possess, according to Virginia Mercury.

It’s been a long-running fight for Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington and has frequently proposed decriminalization laws with limited success.

“This is going to make a tremendous difference in up to 30,000 Virginians lives who receive a criminal charge each year,” Ebbin told ARLnow. “They’ll no longer have the repercussions that come with a criminal charge. I think we’ll be in a much better place with a modest fine.”

Ebbin described decriminalization as a necessary step forward. Legalization is the eventual goal, and Ebbin’s legislation has faced some pushback from advocates like the ACLU who says it doesn’t go far enough.

Ebbin said a study of the impacts of decriminalization — which was also approved by the newly Democrat-controlled legislature — is necessary before the state can more broadly legalize marijuana.

“I want to make sure we get it right in terms of taxation, distribution, keeping it away from minors,” Ebbin said. “Those are all things to be considered as we come up with the structure. No state, to my knowledge, has ever legalized without decriminalizing first.”

The bill still has to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam, but if it is, Ebbin noted that decriminalization would take effect on July 1.

The move toward decriminalization was celebrated by some on Twitter, including Arlington Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who was elected last fall with a platform that included ending prosecution of some marijuana possession cases.

Ebbin said the next steps are to work on the study and get more information to start on the path to legalization.

“[Then] we can start to work on the structure by which we might legalize or introduce legislation to legalize, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Ebbin said. “Nothing decriminalized until July 1, but I think it would put us in a good place.”

File photo

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Heavily-armed Arlington County Police officers made what appears to be a major arrest near the Virginia Square Metro early Friday evening.

A SWAT team, police K-9s and plain-clothes officers could be seen near the Metro station and the Virginia Square Towers condo complex, on the 900 block of N. Lincoln Street, around 3:30 p.m. Friday. Two people, a man and a woman, were detained by police outside the Metro station.

Police dressed in tactical gear and armed with assault-style rifles were seen coming in and out of the condo building, as uniformed officers blocked traffic on N. Lincoln Street. A white Cadillac was searched outside the Metro station, as more tactical and plain-clothes officers stood by.

A police spokeswoman described the activity as “a narcotics investigation.”

“[A] suspect has been taken into custody,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow. “This remain an active investigation and there’s no ongoing threat to the public. Expect continued police presence in the area.”

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The Arlington County Police Department and the Virginia National Guard are planning a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) that could add state-level counter drug support to Arlington’s local law enforcement.

At the Saturday (Feb. 22) meeting, the County Board is scheduled to review the MOU that would add a new National Guard analyst to the police department’s Organized Crime Section.

“This MOU will provide guidance on a collaborative relationship for a [National Guard] counter drug analyst embedded within the Organized Crime Section to assist with the analysis of data obtained through drug investigations and provide the opportunity for additional [National Guard] support,” a staff report said. “The proposed MOU would also provide additional opportunities for VANG assistance and support with respect to counter-drug activities in the County.”

The staff report says that the National Guard is authorized to provide support for activities like “investigative case and analyst support” and “domestic cannabis eradication support.” The National Guard would only be in a support role and would not be involved in “operational aspects of law enforcement nor evidence collection or preservation,” the report said.

The analyst would, at no cost to the department, also assist in analyzing cell phone records and other collected data.

“ACPD will be able to utilize the VANG personnel to further investigations at no additional cost to the County,” a county staff report notes. “In addition, the MOU will open the possibilities of utilizing the VANG in other support roles to further the counter drug activities of the ACPD.”

Photo by Jay Westcott

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