Press Club

Arlington police believe a pair of suspects criss-crossed the county early Tuesday morning, breaking into cars and stealing two.

The series of thefts happened in the Glencarlyn, Bluemont and Woodmont neighborhoods, according to the latest Arlington County Police Department crime report. Arlington has recently seen a rash of vehicle crimes, including the theft of airbags from 20 Hondas in late April and the theft of nearly a dozen catalytic converters in March and April.

The latest crime spree was reported to police early Tuesday. Five cars were broken into and items were stolen from one. Additionally, two SUVs — a Honda and an Acura — were reported stolen.

From ACPD’s crime report:

GRAND LARCENY AUTO/LARCENY FROM AUTO (Series), 2022-05100037/05100054/05100068, 5500 block of 3rd Street S./5600 block of 8th Street N./2900 block of 24th Street N. At approximately 5:00 a.m. on May 10, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim observed two unknown male suspects attempt to enter into her vehicle, during which she yelled and the suspects fled the scene in a silver SUV. The investigation determined that the suspects entered into and rummaged through approximately four victim vehicles and stole personal items from one of the vehicles. Additionally, it was discovered two vehicles were stolen from the 5600 block of 8th Street N. and the 2900 block of 24th Street N. The stolen vehicles are described as a silver in color, 2017 Honda CRV bearing VA license plate UDE1466 and a gray in color, 2015 Acura RDX bearing VA license plate WTARUSH. The two suspects are described as tall, unknown race males with skinny builds, wearing dark clothing and masks. The investigation is ongoing.

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Arlington Central Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Covid-related staffing shortages are forcing Arlington libraries to shutter some services, including shutting down two branches this week.

Cherrydale and Glencarlyn libraries will both be closed through Sunday (Jan. 23), including the book drops, according to an announcement on Monday (Jan. 17).

Holds on the shelf at these branches will be moved to Central Library on Wednesday (Jan. 19) and available until Wednesday, Jan. 26. No new holds will be fulfilled at the two branches during the closure.

The current plan is to reopen the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches on Monday, Jan. 24.

“Operations will continue to be assessed, as these plans are contingent on current staffing levels,” Henrik Sundqvist, spokesperson for Arlington Public Libraries, tells ARLnow. “Announcements regarding resuming in-person programming will be made when we have more information.”

Also starting Monday, all in-person programs at Arlington libraries will be paused and a number of meeting and study rooms will be unavailable in order to cut back on workload and provide more space for staff.

All of this is related to a staffing shortage, notes Sundqvist, something that’s impacting many other businesses across the region and country.

Back in November, Arlington libraries announced the system was set to finally fully reopen at the beginning of January for the first time in nearly two years. That ended up being very short-lived, with two branches again closing only several weeks later.

The reason for the lengthy reopening process was due to a “high number of vacant public service jobs.” The library system has since increased hiring, Sundqvist confirms.

Dealing with holds, in particular, can be a tedious and time consuming task for staff, Sundqvist notes. Though, it’s understandable why residents may not have been picking up held books recently.

“When people don’t pick up holds, the holds need to be pulled and re-shelved which increases staff workload,” Sundqvist says. “It’s reasonable to think recent weather and higher levels of community COVID-19 affect people’s ability and willingness to come into the library and pick up holds.”

Additionally, in recent weeks, Arlington libraries has been distributing at-home COVID tests, which has increased staff workload. All locations are currently out of stock on tests.

It’s anticipated that the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches will be open for good and hold service restored starting next week, but Arlington libraries can’t make any promises.

“Our intention is to do everything possible to keep library locations open,” says Sundqvist. “However, like many other services in the region, we may continue to be impacted by COVID-19 related staffing shortages.”

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Morning Notes

Lonely job (Courtesy of Jeff Vincent/Flickr)

Columbia Pike Optician Robbed — “Security camera video captured the tense moments when a group of thieves robbed an Arlington County store owned by a man known in the community for his charity work… The five suspects take hammers to the cases and fill bags with Cartier, Dior and Gucci frames, about $60,000 of merchandise.” [NBC4]

Mail Delays Frustrate Residents — “Residents across the D.C. region have become increasingly frustrated over delays in mail deliveries, with last week’s snowstorms, a spike in coronavirus cases and long-standing problems with the U.S. Postal Service contributing to a breakdown in services… Arlington resident Diana Wahl said she received no mail between Dec. 27 and Jan. 9. She finally received some mail on Monday and Tuesday, but older mail.” [Washington Post]

Fmr. Local Prosecutor Joins New AG’s Office — “From the job title, it doesn’t look as if [former Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo] Stamos’s primary role is going to be to keep an eye on those prosecutors. But multi-tasking is the way of the world these days, and by picking her, Miyares certainly poked his thumb in the eye of some of the Northern Virginia chief prosecutors.” [Sun Gazette]

Some Local Libraries Closed — “Due to Covid-19 related staffing shortages, Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries will be closed Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 13 – 16. All library locations are closed Monday, Jan. 17 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.” [Arlington Public Library]

Winter Storm PSA from ACPD — From the Arlington County Police Department: “With the risk of another winter storm on the horizon, now is a good time to register for Arlington Alert to receive information on major emergencies, weather, traffic disruptions and transit delays in Arlington County.” [Twitter]

Arlington Loses Delegate on New Maps — “He’s been redistricted out of Arlington, but Del. Rip Sullivan said he will always consider the community a second political home.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Today will have increasing clouds, with a high near 46. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 5:09 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 44. North wind 8 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy of Jeff Vincent/Flickr

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Arlington police car at night (file photo courtesy Kevin Wolf)

(Updated at 10:35 p.m.) A pedestrian was injured Saturday evening in the Glencarlyn area of Arlington after getting struck by a vehicle at S. Carlin Springs Road and 2nd Street S.

Officers arrived at the scene around 7:25 p.m.

“The pedestrian was conscious and alert when transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life threatening,” said Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

The right lane of S. Carlin Springs Road reopens to traffic on Saturday (photo via DES)

Temporary bollards and wheel stops along a segment of S. Carlin Springs Road are set to come down this weekend.

Since March, these barriers — closing off the northbound right travel lane from 8th Place S. to 5th Road S. — have been up to give more room to kids walking to their neighborhood schools. On Saturday (July 24), S. Carlin Springs Road will fully reopen to traffic, according to a tweet from Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“APS and the Department of Environmental Services saw an opportunity to create pilot temporary walking routes not on built sidewalks but rather on space carved out from an original travel or parking lane to help students get to school,” DES spokesman Peter Golkin said.

Campbell Elementary School, Glen Forest Elementary School and Carlin Springs Elementary School are all on or near that stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road that starts in Arlington Mill and ends in Glencarlyn.

The pilot walkability route was part of the county’s five-year Vision Zero Action Plan, aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and severe injuries. The County Board approved the Vision Zero safety plan this May.  

“Staff collected information on facility use feedback, community experience, field observation of operation, traffic pattern, crash experience, etc.,” Golkin said. “Staff hope to use the comments and data to inform future decisions.”

DES and APS will continue studying how the road is used to decide any future changes to traffic patterns, he said. They also tested out the idea on Lorcom Lane in residential North Arlington, which has seen prior attempts to improve safety for kids walking to school.

Although the test was part of a long-range plan, the department took advantage of conditions this spring — when there were fewer cars on the road due to the pandemic and kids were starting to walk to school again — to pilot the change, Golkin noted.

He says neither the Arlington County Police Department nor APS observed a notable increase or decrease in the number of collisions during the study period. Instead, they saw “challenging and dangerous encounters, but none resulted in a collision.”

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More than one year after all Arlington Public Library branches were shuttered due to the coronavirus, five branches remain closed. 

This summer and fall, the library is looking to reopen four of these branches, which currently only allow people to drop books off.

“Based on the recently approved Arlington County FY22 Budget, the Library plans to expand open locations after July 1, as hiring and training of new staff allows,” said a recent announcement from the library system.

The Aurora Hills branch and the newly renovated Columbia Pike branch could open in July. Next up would be the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches, which the library announcement said could open “by fall 2021 and sooner if possible.”   

Three locations are currently open. Central Library allows people to pick up the books they have on hold, while the Shirlington and Westover branches are open for 30 minutes of in-person browsing with self-service checkout.

The library is also looking to expand services at these three locations. It aims to increase access to library collections, public computers and public space at all locations while keeping social distancing in mind. 

Remaining closed, for now, is the branch in the lobby of county government headquarters in Courthouse.

“The Plaza branch will remain closed in preparation for a long-planned expansion and renovation,” the announcement said. 

Arlington Public Library is planning for socially distanced outdoor programs this summer. Among these include outdoor storytimes, which will kick off Tuesday, May 18 at Central Library.

Its summer reading challenge will begin June 1, and Arlington Public Library’s mobile truck will “continue to hit the road and be visible at community events.”

One change of note for returning library patrons: during the pandemic, Arlington Public Library permanently eliminated late fees, a change intended to “make the library more accessible to all.”

Photo via Arlington Public Library

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(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax County battled a blaze in a home’s detached garage this morning.

The fire broke out around 10:30 a.m. on the 5800 block of 2nd Street S., in the Glencarlyn neighborhood near Kenmore Middle School. It sent a plume of thick black smoke into the clear sky, which could be seen from a distance.

The fire spread to “other outdoor structures” nearby,” ACFD said, but firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it further consumed the garage. No injuries were reported.

A vintage Volkswagen Beetle appears to have been destroyed inside the garage.

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If you’re looking to spice up your love life for Valentine’s Day, some Arlington residents have a very simple request: please don’t do it on 4th Street S. in the Glencarlyn neighborhood.

Used condoms and smutty doorbell camera footage are evidence of the dead-end street’s transformation into a defacto lover’s lane. It’s not the kind of crime that will make regional news, but at least one resident on 4th Street said it’s been frustrating for locals.

On the surface, 4th Street S. west of S. Carlin Springs Road seems to have all the hallmarks of a quiet car rendezvous spot. It’s a dead end road with a boarded-up house on one side at the end of the street, and the other’s view obscured by trees. Potential in-vehicle exhibitionists are warned, however, the end of the street is within a stone’s throw of Carlin Springs Elementary School.

The resident — we’re not using his name — said he suspects the most likely culprits are local high school students. A few days ago, his daughter was alarmed to step outside and catch a pair mid-coitus. The resident’s doorbell camera caught the lovers in action, and when he saw the car parked on the block again he confronted a male driver, who initially denied it but when told there was a video of his car, fled.

While police scanner traffic suggested that this has been an issue before, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said there’s only one call for service on record.

“At approximately 1:49 p.m. on January 28, the Emergency Communications Center received a report of a sex offense in the 5900 block of 4th Street S.,” Savage said in an email. “The caller reported two subjects allegedly having sex inside a parked vehicle. The vehicle and subjects had since left the scene. The reporting party was outside the County at the time of the call and advised to call back when he returned home.”

If a similar incident happens on your block, Savage said residents should report suspicious activity to police by calling the non-emergency line at 703-558-2222.

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Four community improvement projects are on this weekend’s Arlington County Board agenda.

The Board is expected to approve the $3 million slate of projects as part of its Neighborhood Conservation program. The somewhat controversial program, previously on the budgetary chopping block, awards funding to modest infrastructure improvement projects requested by local community groups.

The projects set for funding this fall include:

  • Street improvements in the Glencarlyn neighborhood along 4th Street S., from Kensington to Illinois streets ($1.3 million)
  • Pedestrian safety and intersection improvements in the Dominion Hills neighborhood at N. Larrimore Street and 9th Street N. ($1.2 million)
  • Intersection improvements in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls neighborhood at 14th Street N. and N. Ohio Street ($0.5 million)
  • Landscaping and beautification in the Old Dominion neighborhood at 24th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive ($28,125)

Photo via Google Maps

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Next week, county officials will present details and ask for feedback on a long-awaited project to restore a pond along the W&OD Trail.

On Tuesday, October 1, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will present a draft plan for digging the Swallow Pond in Glencarlyn Park deeper, and restoring some of the wild habitat in and around the pond.

People interested in learning more about the designs can attend the meeting at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials are also welcoming feedback from community members.

“The project goal is to restore the pond to the original depth by removing sediment, add a sediment collection forebay to allow easier maintenance and sediment removal, maximize water quality benefits, and restore habitat,” the county wrote on the project webpage.

Officials hope that clearing sediment means clearer water will flow from the pond to Four Mile Run — making this project one of several the county is hoping can cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sparrow Pond was man made in 2001 and has been slowly filling up with sediment ever since.

Sparrow Pond in 2018 after years of sediment build up, filling in the manmade waterway (Image via Arlington County)

Sediment was first cleared out of the pond 2007, per a county presentation. The pond was due for another clean-up in 2012, but the work was delayed. Several studies later, the pond is now slated for a full restoration project.

During a March community meeting, residents expressed concerns that construction could introduce invasive plants like Japanese knotweed via machinery that’s worked in places already seeded with the fast-growing shrub. Residents also requested crews do the work outside of the sparrow breeding cycle (roughly March to August) to protect the pond’s namesake avian inhabitants.

Image 1 via Flickr Pool/Dennis Dimick, others via Arlington County

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Virginia Hospital Center executives celebrated when they finally earned permission to expand the hospital’s North Arlington campus and execute a long-planned land swap with the county — but one of the consequences of the deal has some employees and parents feeling blindsided.

VHC is gearing up to send Arlington its property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road in Glencarlyn, in exchange for gaining control over a piece of land at 1800 N. Edison Street. The latter property is adjacent to its existing facilities along N. George Mason Drive, and will be a key part of the hospital’s hotly debated expansion plans.

Of course, that’s going to prompt some big changes at the Carlin Springs Road site as the county takes over. Among them is the impending closure of a childcare center that the hospital operated on the property in tandem with Bright Horizons, serving VHC employees and local parents alike.

The daycare facility is now set to close on July 26, according to letters from both VHC and Bright Horizons provided to ARLnow. Though that deadline may be a full four months away, parents with kids at the daycare say they’re now scrambling to find alternative options.

The county is currently facing a childcare crunch, with local leaders currently weighing strategies to bring down the cost of daycare options in Arlington, and VHC parents say those conditions have only exacerbated the shock they felt about the childcare center’s closing.

“I was feeling reassured that finally Arlington realized that there’s more demand than supply when it comes to childcare, and now this happens,” said one parent, who declined to be identified. “It’s ironic that in Arlington, where there’s supposed to be some attention to how challenging it is to find childcare centers, instead of opening a new place we’re closing one of the big ones down and forcing families and employees to figure things out on their own.”

A spokesperson for the hospital would only confirm that the center is closing sometime this year, saying that “the details of the closing are still being worked out,” but otherwise would not comment on the situation.

Mike Malone, VHC’s vice president for administrative services and chief human resources officer, wrote in a letter to parents that it was his “great disappointment” to have to close the center. He said “the county will be repurposing the land on the Carlin Springs campus and demolishing the building,” prompting the closure — VHC leaders previously told ARLnow that the land swap would be finalized by May or June at the latest.

Malone added that Bright Horizons is “committed to helping every current family find care in another Bright Horizons center or [helping] you transition into another center of your choosing.”

In a letter of their own, Bright Horizons executives pointed to the “over two dozen centers spread across the metro area” that the company operates as options for parents. They also noted that they have “resources available to facilitate your child’s transition,” and said they plan to help staff at the center find jobs at other Bright Horizons locations.

Parents at the center told ARLnow that help is appreciated, but they fear it isn’t enough to manage the transition.

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