Arlington’s top prosecutor just got a boost from the U.S. Department of Justice to continue pursuing criminal justice reforms.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded $340,000 to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, led by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. This is the maximum grant allowed through the bureau’s Innovative Prosecution Solutions program, according to a press release.
The $340,000 will fund two new positions, including one for someone trained in social work, the release said. It will support work to train facilitators in restorative practices — intended to reduce the length of incarcerations, at least in some cases, while also providing justice to the victim — and identify which D.C.-area restorative services and diversion programs produce the best public safety outcomes.
“It’s a game changer because it allows us to develop partnerships with diversion programs across the Metro area, for the first time, both in service of developing opportunities and reducing recidivism, incarceration, and racial disparities,” Dehghani-Tafti said.
The office will also hire a data expert and purchase software needed to analyze data about prosecutions, including how cases are resolved. Dehghani-Tafti campaigned on using data and evidence to drive criminal justice reform.
“It also gives us the capacity for evidence-based prosecution and evidence-based diversion decisions,” she said.
This grant will fund these positions and activities through June 2023, according to the release.
“This grant acknowledges and supports the work of local prosecutors trying to transform the criminal legal system,” said Dehghani-Tafti, who successfully ran on a criminal justice reform platform in 2019, in a statement.
Additional statements from the press release are below.
“I applaud the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s efforts and office for applying and obtaining funding under the DOJ’s FY 2021 Smart Prosecution–Innovative Prosecution Solutions Program,” stated Julius D. “J.D.” Spain, Sr., President Arlington Branch NAACP. “In efforts to focus on mediation and agreement rather than punishment, our community needs alternatives to traditional discipline. This additional funding will assist in developing effective strategies, enhancing our Restorative Arlington Program, and combating and prosecuting violent crime in Arlington.”
“Black Parents of Arlington commends the Commonwealth’s Attorney and her office for taking this important step to develop effective, economical, and innovative responses to crime within our jurisdiction,” said Whytni Kernodle, Co-Founder and President, Black Parents of Arlington. “These funds should help reduce rather than exacerbate racial disparities that are particularly harmful to young Black males, while helping to reduce crime and increase public safety for everyone in our community.”
“This funding will allow us to leverage the innovative and data driven work that Parisa’s office has been focused on since day one to increase efficiency, security and safety for our community,” said Kimiko Lighty, Coordinator, Restorative Arlington. “This grant award is an endorsement of the collaborative spirit that system partners here in Arlington have prioritized and we will all benefit from the investment in updated data systems and coordinative personnel.”
At the same time, her tenure has seen some controversies. She has been the target of a recall effort, which cites increases in certain crimes such as carjackings — though the same data also shows a decrease in violent sex offenses and a relatively low homicide rate.
Yorktown Grad Sets Record at Olympic Trials — “18-Year-Old Arlington Aquatic Club swimmer Torri Huske just exploded in the first heat of women’s 100 fly semifinals, breaking the American Record. After showing off her speed this morning, splitting under World Record pace on the first 50, Huske blasted a 55.78 to touch first tonight. The swim marks a personal best by nearly a full second, and makes Huske just the 2nd American of all-time to break 56 seconds in the event.” [SwimSwam, Twitter, Twitter]
Amazon Adopts Hybrid Office Schedule — “We’ve adjusted our guidance on our plans for returning to the office and added more clarity. Going forward, we’ve decided to offer Amazonians a mix of working between the office and home… Our new baseline will be three days a week in the office (with the specific days being determined by your leadership team), leaving you flexibility to work remotely up to two days a week.” [Amazon]
Arlington Man Imprisoned for Harassment — “For more than a decade, the employees of a Washington think tank were traumatized by an unlikely harasser: a career Foreign Service officer. In hundreds of emails and voicemails, he called them ‘Arab American terrorist murderers’ and ranted about how they should be cleansed. Yet there was almost nothing they could do.” [Washingtonian]
Marymount Gets Federal Grant — “Marymount University has established a new fellowship program to prepare Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduates to serve high-needs populations and meet the demands of a growing profession. A $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will fund 84 fellowships for students within the University’s School of Counseling.” [Press Release]
Reflections on Halls Hill History — “One of those local historians is Wilma Jones, who grew up in the mostly Black community of Halls Hill in Arlington, Virginia. Now the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and Black families like hers have been pushed out. Today, Jones says it’s too late to save Grandma’s house, but it’s not too late to save her history.” [With Good Reason]
Vote: Favorite Outdoor Dining Spot — There’s one day left in the voting for this week’s Arlies category: Favorite Outdoor Dining Spot. [ARLnow]
(Updated 03/11/22) Rep. Don Beyer announced yesterday that he has requested federal funds to go toward a health initiative and two parks projects in Arlington County.
If approved, the funding would fund repaving a section of the Bluemont Junction Trail and repairing replacing a key pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. It would also purchase vehicles needed by a mobile response team that would respond to behavioral health crises rather than police.
The money would come from the Fiscal Year 2022 Community Project Funding Program, which provides targeted funding for local projects nationwide. Representatives were able to submit requests for up to 10 projects but there is no guarantee of approval. Beyer also requested money for projects benefiting the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County.
“The infrastructure requests would enhance pedestrian routes in the region, support [electric vehicles] and other environmentally friendly initiatives, fund mental health resources, and support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras for the Alexandria Police Department,” Beyer said. “These are worthy projects deserving of federal funding.”
For the Bluemont Junction Trail, Beyer requested $325,000 to repave a segment of the trail and adjacent connector paths, improvements that the county identified during a 2018 trails assessment.
“The current trail pavement and connectors are in deteriorating condition with limited or poor access from adjacent and intersecting streets,” the announcement said.
Beyer requested $800,000 to replace the Glencarlyn Park pedestrian bridge lost during the July 2019 flash flooding. The Glencarlyn bridge was also included in Arlington’s adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan. (This article incorrectly said the Lubber Run bridge had been replaced. At the time, funding had been secured for its replacement. The project to replace one of the park’s two destroyed bridges is now in its design phase.)
“Of the six pedestrian bridges lost in the flooding event, the most important one for connectivity is the bridge in Glencarlyn Park,” Beyer’s announcement said. “This bridge connects the main park area, dog exercise area and neighboring communities to the west of Four Mile Run to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The bridge connection is important as both a commuter connection and for recreation and leisure walks on the W&OD Trail.”
On behalf of Arlington County, Beyer requested $390,000 to purchase two medically-equipped vehicles to be used by a team tasked with responding to mental health crises. Arlington’s Police Practices Group recently recommended that the county transition from dispatching police to such incidents to sending out a specialized mobile crisis response unit.
“The requested funds will support a ‘Help not Handcuffs’ approach to ensure that persons in behavioral health crises receive the most appropriate assistance needed when and where they need it,” Beyer’s announcement said. “A behavioral health response vs. a law enforcement response will increase community-based mental health care, decrease emergency department use, reduce inpatient admissions, divert from the criminal justice system and supports racial justice.”
In its lengthy report, the Police Practices Group also recommended procuring specialized vehicles or retrofitting existing ones for the mobile crisis unit.
The vehicles would supplement $574,000 in the county’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget to support an enhanced mental health crisis response program in the Department of Human Services. That allocation would fund a physician’s assistant, nurse, clinician, transport van and operating supplies.
Photo via Flickr pool user Tom Mockler
Arlington County has received just over $1 million in grants from both the federal government and the state to help fight the opioid epidemic.
The Department of Justice is providing about $900,000 to the county’s Department of Human Services to assist in improving access to treatment, identifying alternatives to incarnation, and to hire two full time staff to further help those being treated for substance abuse.
Virginia is granting $110,000 that will add a contracted nurse position and help continue to train police and DHS staff on techniques to best help those in need of treatment.
The grants will also help purchase more Narcan (Naloxone) kits.
Suzanne Somerville is with the Department of Human Services and will be overseeing how the grants will be used as the Bureau Chief for Residential and Specialized Clinical Services. She says the grants will allow the department to continue to build out programs that focus on harm reduction and “pre-arrest work.”
“[That’s] partnering with police… and working with folks who are having substance use issues,” Somerville says. “Or when they first bring them into the jail, looking to see if we can divert them and send them to treatment instead of incarceration.”
She says that a large portion of the grants are going to hiring two full-time staff — a case manager and therapist — but a chunk is also going to help with sober living options.
There are four Oxford houses in Arlington, a self-supported program that houses those in recovery. Somerville says that a portion of the grants will help residents pay for these programs.
The opioid epidemic continues to ravage Arlington County. While 2017 remains the county’s worst year for incidents involving opioids, after a downturn in 2018 and 2019, last year saw a resurgence in opioid-related overdoses. There were more opioid related deaths in 2020 than 2018 and 2019 combined.
The pandemic is likely to blame for much of the resurgence.
“There are a lot of reasons why people have relapses,” says Somerville. “A lot of it does have to do with employment. A lot of our clients… work in the service industry and a lot of them lost their jobs.”
And 2021 is looking even more tragic and deadly. Somerville says since January 21, there have been six known overdoses in Arlington County, three of which were fatal.
For many, the first step in asking for help is the hardest. So, the county is attempting to lower the barrier for that.
It has established a confidential “warm line” for folks in crisis that is staffed with peers and those in recovery themselves. The number is 571-302-0327.
“They’ve been through this and they understand what it’s like to try to quit and all of the pressure that comes with it,” says Somerville.
Starting in April, all Arlington fire stations will become “safe stations” where residents can simply walk in and those there will initiate the process of getting them help.
These grants will assist the county in closing gaps in service, says Somerville, and provide quicker, more complete help to residents in need at a particularly hard time for all.
“It’s our job to help you connect to treatment and help you figure out how you can do better,” she said.
‘Open Schools’ Signs Also Being Stolen — “The debate over whether kids should be learning in or out of schools is getting ugly in Arlington. So much so, dozens of signs that said ‘Open Schools Now’ have gone missing. ‘Some of them have gotten stolen and neighbors have found them in trash cans,’ parent Russell Laird said Friday, standing near 100 new signs that had just been delivered. ‘I told people, keep count of how many were stolen, come back with double.'” [Fox 5]
County Getting More COVID-19 Aid — “The Arlington County Board today accepted more than $3 million dollars in additional federal aid to support low-to-moderate-income residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid included more money for housing vouchers and funding for a range of relief programs to support families and small businesses.” [Arlington County]
Restaurant Week Starts Today — “Arlington Restaurant Week will run from October 19-26. During the week, diners can try set menu items from many local restaurants, at a discounted price. The idea is for diners to find a new to-go place for dining out.” [ARLnow]
W&OD Trail Detour Shifting — “The current W&OD Trail detour route just east of Lee Highway (Route 29) will be shifted for about two weeks beginning October 19 to allow additional construction activity. Crews will reconstruct sidewalks on Lee Highway, the Econolodge entrance on Fairfax Drive, and nearby curb ramps on Lee Highway. Trail users will be directed to a new sidewalk and trail adjacent to the new trail bridge during this detour.” [VDOT]
Gutshall Posthumously Honored By Chamber — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that the late Erik Gutshall is our 2020 inductee into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Local Church Gets Big Donation — “Today, Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington received 40 pallets of toiletries and household products worth $250,000 from @FoodForThePoor. They plan to give away the items during their weekly food distribution and through the parish thrift store.” [Arlington Catholic Herald/Twitter]
AED Wins Prestigious Awards — “Arlington Economic Development took home numerous honors at this year’s International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2020 Excellence Awards, which were announced earlier today at the organization’s annual conference. AED’s programs and partnerships were recognized for Economic Excellence in several categories.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Gets Federal Arts Grant — “Arlington Cultural Affairs will receive a $35,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)… [Arlington] will use the grant to support a multi-cultural artist residency project serving the Columbia Hills and Columbia Grove affordable housing communities.” [Arlington County]
Justin Trawick to Play ‘Secret’ Show — “We just got approval from Arlington County to present ‘Common Good on The Block’ benefiting the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Join ‘Justin Trawick and The Common Good’ for a secret street show with the full band on August 1st. This will be a socially distanced event and there are only 60 tickets available.” [Twitter]
Armed Robbery Near Ballston — “At approximately 11:45 p.m. on July 7, the victim was outside his residence when he was approached by two male suspects, one of whom was displaying a firearm. The suspects forced the victim back inside of his apartment, assaulted him, and demanded money. The victim was forced into the bathroom while the suspects ransacked the residence, then stole the victim’s vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox with Virginia tags, and other items of value.” [Arlington County]
APS Superintendent to Hold Virtual Town Hall — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., to address the family selection process for choosing an instructional model for students. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live. The event will provide simultaneous interpretation in 5 languages (more details to come), including ASL, and closed captions in the streamed video.” [Arlington Public Schools]
“Broadband connectivity is not a luxury, it is essential for households,” County Board member Christian Dorsey said.
Dorsey said the digital divide between households with broadband internet access and those without was present before COVID-19, but social distancing and the school from home has made closing that gap more urgent than ever. Ten percent of Arlington households have no internet access, either through a wired or a mobile connection, according to a presentation Tuesday afternoon.
“This will be a critical piece in ensuring students don’t fall behind simply because they don’t have sufficient family income,” Dorsey said. Arlington Public Schools has said its rationale for not teaching new material remotely during the last half of the spring semester was because of concerns about equitable access to online resources.
Some 5,000 to 8,000 families could qualify for the county’s new program, which will provide 25/3 mbs “Internet Essentials” access and will be administered by Arlington Public Schools through a contract with Comcast. Dorsey said that internet access will also be vital for many to seek employment during and after the pandemic.
The funding is a relatively small piece of the $20.66 million in CARES Act funding allocated to Arlington and aimed at supporting programs and services impacted by COVID-19.
“This will be broadband connectivity with decent download speeds and upload speeds,” Dorsey said. “There will be no necessary costs to incur for equipment to access connectivity, it will be provided through Comcast with a self-installation kit.”
Dorsey said there will be no activation or installation fees. Internet access will also be bundled with an option to purchase a computer for $149.99.
“This pandemic has made it clear that the internet should be a utility, like water and electricity, and that everyone is going to need it in this day and age,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said.
At its meeting last night the Board also approved $400,000 for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and Arlington Thrive, the nonprofit that provides emergency cash to those in need, and allocated an additional $500,000 to Thrive for emergency assistance, including rental assistance, to residents in need.
That’s on top of another $1 million allocated to Arlington Thrive via separate federal grants, an action that was also approved last night.
CARES Act funding will also go toward the purchase of personal protective equipment, staffing for coronavirus testing sites, and hiring more public health workers, among other things.
More from a county press release, below.
(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) More than 3,500 local residents are having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, according to a survey of nonprofits conducted by Arlington County.
The figure was included in a staff report for an item to be considered by the County Board later today.
“Arlington County conducted a survey to assess community needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis and to inform staff recommendations for the use of funds being made available through the federal CARES Act,” the report says. “The survey was sent to 73 nonprofit organizations that serve low and moderate income residents in Arlington, with 26 responses… Of the clients served during the past month, service providers reported that over 3,500 clients were having difficulty paying the rent, with many others unable to pay utilities or access resources or school because of internet/technology issues.”
Lower-income workers have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which has prompted mass layoffs in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries, among others.
The county is citing its community needs survey in a plan for how to allocate supplemental Community Development Block Grant and Community Services Block Grant funding under the CARES Act — the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and recovery bill passed in March.
The County Board is set to vote tonight on a staff proposal for allocating around $1 million in federal funding — intended to help localities respond to the coronavirus crisis — to “provide emergency rent, utility and internet assistance to prevent 200-600 households from becoming homeless.”
The funds will be dispersed by Arlington Thrive, the staff report says. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit, tells ARLnow that needs in the community are rising.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Thrive has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of requests,” Schneider said. “We have had approximately a 150% increase in request for basic financial needs like rental assistance, utility assistance, and medical and dental assistance. We anticipate this increase in demand to continue through the summer.”
More from the report:
Based on the survey results and consultation with staff from the Department of Human Services, Department of Libraries, and Department of Technology Services, Arlington County proposes utilizing CARES funding to support an emergency assistance program to include rent, utilities and internet costs for low- and moderate-income Arlington renters who have experienced loss of income directly related to COVID-19. Monthly payments will be based on need, and will not exceed $1,500 per month per household, for up to three months. The program will be administered through Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit emergency assistance organization that will conduct outreach, handle intakes, and make emergency payments directly to landlords and/or utility companies. An estimated 200-600 Arlington households will be served by this program and may avoid eviction as a result. Additionally, Arlington Thrive will provide information on food resources to clients and community partners.
Overturned Vehicle on GW Parkway — “The northbound George Washington Parkway was closed [past Key Bridge] during Tuesday morning’s rush hour after a vehicle overturned, authorities said… The southbound side of the parkway was also affected.” [Washington Post]
Transgender Policy Discussion at School Board Meeting — “Students, parents and advocates packed the [Arlington school] board meeting to loudly back [a transgender non-discrimination] plan, waving miniature LGBT and transgender pride flags to signal agreement with the nearly three dozen speakers who proclaimed support… Supporters on Tuesday vastly outnumbered those who turned out to protest the plans.” [Washington Post]
Good Samaritan Murder Trial — “The Good Samaritan who intervened to try to stop a sexual assault in Arlington last fall was beaten so badly it was impossible to tell what killed him, a medical examiner testified Monday.” [Washington Post]
Feds Giving Grant to DCA — “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International both will see millions in funding from the FAA for improvements. DCA is slated to get $4,921,500 in funding.” [WUSA 9, Press Release]
ACFD Chief Battalion Honored — “Chief Wesley was recognized at the event for being the #first #AfricanAmericanWoman Battalion Chief not only in @ArlingtonVA but also the entire Northern Virginia region.” [Twitter]
Amazon HQ2 Jobs Update — There are currently 63 positions listed on Amazon’s HQ2 jobs page, many of them technical. Recently listed job titles include “Region Build Technical Program Manager,” “Full Stack Software Development Engineer” and “Systems Development Manager, Cloud Computing Operations.” [Amazon]
Cemetery Flyover Planned Today — Expect to see a military flyover today around 1:45 p.m., in support of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]
Grant to Pay for Reforestation — “Arlington County government officials will accept about $9,700 in federal funds to restore nearly four acres of riparian buffer along Four Mile Run. The grant will fund purchase of more than 1,000 tree and shrub seedlings to be planted in areas that have been treated for removal of invasive plants.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Convicted of Murder — “On Friday, April 13, 2018, a Charles County jury, after a 5 day trial, convicted Bryan Javier Aquice, 25, of Arlington, VA. of the First Degree Murder of Michael Beers.” [Southern Maryland News Net]
Disgusting Discovery Prompts Call to Police — A woman called police after she reportedly found a used condom on the hood of her car in Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood. [Twitter]
Nearby: New Company HQ in Falls Church — Investment firm Kiddar Capital will be relocating its headquarters to a new office building in the City of Falls Church. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington County has received a $25,000 federal grant to fund programming for its Art Truck.
The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the grant, which will be matched by $25,000 in county money for a total of $50,000 in funding, in June. The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday (December 16) to receive the grant.
The grant will help with expenses, commission original artwork and hire artists for programming. The Art Truck is part of approximately 1,000 projects to receive federal money.
It travels to locations like farmers markets, neighborhood events, public libraries and after-school events, with its projects ranging from pop-up galleries to performances.
“The main goal of the Arlington Art Truck is to demystify the artmaking process, to tear down the four walls, turn it inside out and bring the ‘museum’ to the people,” Michelle Isabelle-Stark, director of Arlington Arts and Cultural Affairs, said in a statement earlier this year.
The total $50,000 funding help pay for artists’ fees, transportation and hotels ($26,130); vehicle costs ($8,455); technology needs ($4,027); printing, art and office supplies ($5,638); and marketing and advertising materials ($5,750).
Image via Arlington Cultural Affairs