Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Lovings Might Not Want Name Used for Road — “The problem with these efforts [to rename Lee Highway as “Loving Avenue”] is that the surviving family has strong feelings about these efforts, statues, renaming of roads etc. They do not want this and the attention it brings. We in Caroline [County] try to be sensitive to their wishes and how they view these efforts and the Loving story. I would like nothing better than to see her remembered in this way, but must defer to the wishes of the family.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Barcroft Field Getting Video Screen — “Tucker Field at Barcroft Park will have an enhanced look for the 2021 season, as it was announced on Friday, Dec. 16 that construction has begun on a new videoboard to be used by the GW Baseball program. The project, entirely privately funded, was made possible due to a lead gift from Joe and Leslie Barmakian, parents of current GW student-athlete and baseball team member, Steve Barmakian.” [GW Sports]

Jail COVID Tests Only Find One Case — “In partnership with the Arlington County Public Health Department and the Virginia National Guard, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office tested 196 inmates and 274 deputies, civilians and contractors for COVID-19. There was only one staff member who tested positive among the 470 people tested.” [Arlington County]

Beyer Proposes New COVID Research Funding — “Rep. Don Beyer this week introduced the COVID-19 Long Haulers Act, which would authorize and fund research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PICORI) to benefit so-called “long haulers,” people who experience long term effects of COVID-19 infections.” [Press Release]

Funding Available for Overdue Utility Bills — “Arlingtonians who are having trouble paying their water and sewer bills due to pandemic-related economic hardship may be eligible to have their bills paid through the County’s new Utility Relief program. The application deadline is January 15. The program is funded through a $383,338  state coronavirus relief grant accepted by the County Board at its Tuesday, Dec. 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]

Strong Leasing for New Ballston Building — “I’m expecting revenue to increase next year because of [B.F. Saul]’s new project called The Waycroft delivered earlier this year. The project comprises 491 apartment units and 60,000 square feet of retail space in Arlington, Virginia, as mentioned in the business update. Around 353, or 72% of available units, are leased.” [Seeking Alpha]

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Morning Notes

Modification to Red Top Development — “As currently proposed, the building would have 269 residential units instead of the previously-approved 247. The unit mix will span from studios to two bedrooms, and the ground-floor units will have private entrances, including a lone three-bedroom unit. The development will also include 134 vehicular spaces and 108 bicycle spaces on a below-grade level.” [UrbanTurf]

Spotted: First Snowflakes of the Season — The first snowflakes of the season in Arlington fell yesterday. Though the few flakes that briefly fell did not amount to any degree of accumulation, it was enough to prompt a few social media posts. [Twitter, Twitter]

Rental Assistance for Day Laborers — “Arlington County Board members on Dec. 12 are expected to reallocate funds from the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC) to support rental assistance for day-laborers in the community. The plan will move $32,000 of the county government’s annual grant of $208,643 to SEEC to directly focus on rental assistance by making direct payments to landlords.” [InsideNova]

Inmates, Deputies to Be Tested — “Sheriff Beth Arthur announces all Sheriff’s Office staff and inmates housed at the Arlington County Detention Facility will be tested for COVID-19 on December 10th and 11th by the Virginia National Guard.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: MoCo May Nix Indoor Dining — “Indoor dining at restaurants in Montgomery County could soon be shut down, a new measure to combat the spread of COVID-19. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced his proposal on Wednesday afternoon during a media briefing held with county and medical officials across the state.” [Bethesda Magazine, Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

COVID Case at County Jail — “An inmate in the Arlington County Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is doing well and the medical contractor of the Detention Center will be closely managing his symptoms. This is the first inmate to have contracted the COVID-19 virus and the Sheriff’s Office is taking all necessary steps to ensure the well being of those incarcerated.” [Arlington County]

Historic Designation for Rouse Estate? — “Members of the Arlington government’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted 10-0 on Nov. 17 to move forward on a preliminary study toward determining whether the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road meets qualifications to be designated as a local historic district.” [InsideNova]

Rainy Night On Tap — “The calendar flipped to meteorological winter Tuesday, and the atmosphere is going all in. A strong storm system could drench the coastal Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with a soaking shot of rainfall late Friday night into Saturday, while inland areas risk being blanketed by the first big snow of the season.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Toy Donation Event Sunday — “With Federal unemployment ending and the Marine’s Toys for Tots program seeing record low donations, The Arlington Knights of Columbus chapter will be holding a drive-thru Toys for Tots drop-off event. The event will take place at the Arlington Knights of Columbus on Sunday, December 6 from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. at 5115 Little Falls Road.” [Event Calendar]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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A study by a criminal justice consulting firm recommends that Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church keep the Northern Virginia Detention Center, but with some changes.

Over the last decade, detention rates have decreased at the facility, located at 200 S. Whiting Street in Alexandria. It has 70 beds but on any given day houses 20 to 25 youth detainees — from age 11 to 18 — who have committed anything from parole violations to felony offenses.

Recently, officials have been weighing the future of the center, which is falling apart and costly to run. During a joint work session with representatives from Arlington and Alexandria on Monday, D.C.-based criminal justice consulting firm The Moss Group recommended keeping the center, but making it more efficient by moving more programs to the facility and eliminating some staff.

“It is a complex, aging facility, but it is available for other options when you’re thinking about the future of the compound,” said Reginald Wilkinson, the senior advisor for The Moss Group.

In an email, Arlington County said keeping the center open — as opposed to transferring detainees to a facility elsewhere — would “ensure juveniles remain close to their home communities and services.”

The report recommended placing mental-health treatment, substance-abuse services, youth mentoring and specialized placement programs in underused spaces in the facility, which would help make it more financially feasible to maintain.

It also suggested redesigning the facility to accommodate the new services and create a “home-like” feeling.

Cutting some staff and making the program changes could save nearly $600,000 annually, The Moss Group found. That would mean a savings of about $300,000 from Arlington’s current $1.8 million annual commitment.

NVJDC is the second most expensive detention center among Virginia’s 24 facilities, and was allocated $5.8 million to run in Fiscal Year 2020. Of that, about $3.6 million came from localities and $2.2 million from state and federal funding.

A possible alternative would be moving kids to the Fairfax County detention center, but Justin Wilson, the mayor of Alexandria, said Fairfax likely will not take the teens. The mayor said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay told him “the door is not closed, but that the hill is steep.”

The right political movement could change that, Wilson added.

“I think there is some logic to working together again, given [extra] capacity” at the Fairfax County facility, he said. Fairfax County operated the NVJDC with Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church before opening its own center in 1994.

Consultants conducted focus groups, interviews and community meetings, and hosted an online survey to gauge support for the center. Although some people want to see it closed, the group concluded there is widespread community support for the center.

The finding raised eyebrows among some political officials. Others asked about opportunities to eliminate juvenile detentions altogether.

“I think there might be a desire to move toward zero detention by closing down that facility,” Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol said. “Certainly I… am interested in pursuing that vision of zero youth detention.”

Arlington’s Director of Court Services Earl Conklin said that without a detention center a judge could still order detention but the youth would have no place to go.

The Moss Group told the municipalities to consider a formal relationship with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and participate in its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to reduce reliance on detention.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey applauded the decline in detention rates but said reforms are essential. About 57% kids in the system are Black, while 39% are white. In terms of ethnicity, just over 30% are identified as Hispanic.

“It is our young people of color who are most impacted by this detention facility,” she said. “We would like to do away with [this] disproportionality and continue to lower the number of people there, but there will always be a need for this facility or something like it, and that’s why we’re here.”

The study will be presented at a virtual community meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. The meeting link will be available on the study webpage.

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Morning Notes

Nonprofit Won’t Return to Arlington Office — “The American Diabetes Association isn’t planning a return to the Crystal City headquarters it left Alexandria for a few years back, not even when a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available and it’s safe to go back to the office again. The nonprofit is seeking to sublease all of its space at 2451 Crystal Drive, about 80,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Voter Registration Open Until Midnight — “A judge on Wednesday granted a request from civil rights groups to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline until Oct. 15 after the state’s online system crashed on the final day of the registration period, according to Virginia’s attorney general.” [Axios, Press Release]

Oh, Deer — The regional deer population has been increasing during the pandemic, which is making driving more dangerous this fall as deer potentially become “too comfortable” around roads. [NBC 4]

Park Rangers Patrolling for Rogue Mountain Bikers — “Park rangers have been patrolling the parks to keep the mountain bike riders off the natural trails. ‘We put up barriers in places where we can. We put up signs … in key areas we put up some things to block their access … but we’re focusing on education,’ Abugattas said.” [WTOP]

Voting Lines Should Move Quickly — “Arlington election officials are advising the public not to be dissuaded if lines for voting, either in advance of Nov. 3 or on Election Day itself, seem long. ‘You can expect to see a pretty long line, but that’s because of the spacing we’re trying to put between voters,’ county director of elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” Also, the Reinemeyer said the county is already fully staffed with volunteer poll workers. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Certification for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has met all applicable Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards following an audit that was conducted earlier this year.” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Planning Meeting Tonight — “Participate in a virtual workshop about Arlington’s community planning process for Pentagon City! The first workshop will include small group discussions about the community’s vision for the Pentagon City Area.” [Arlington County]

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The Arlington branch of the NAACP is calling for an independent investigation into an inmate’s death inside the county jail last week.

The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 1 at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. Darryl Becton, 46, was found unconscious in his cell and later declared dead on scene by paramedics after resuscitation efforts failed.

Becton, a D.C. resident, was being held on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge last year.

The death is being investigated by the Arlington County Police Department. A separate law enforcement entity — the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office — manages the jail, but the NAACP says a different agency, like Virginia State Police, should conduct the investigation.

“It has been reported that in Arlington there has now been at least three deaths in the past few years at this Detention Facility,” said NAACP branch president Julius Spain, Sr. “It is time to find out the reasons why. Transparency, accountability, and review are extremely critical. The public deserves to know.”

The NAACP sent the following letter to the county’s sheriff, acting police chief and other top officials, as well as members of the media.

Arlington Branch #7047 calls for a full AND independent investigation (to include policy, procedural, and criminal violations) into the death of Mr. Darryl Becton, 46, who died on October 1, 2020, after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility. Releasing the results of the investigation to the public immediately is paramount to promoting transparency and public trust in our community. The results of the autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determining the cause and manner of death should also be released to the public immediately.

Mr. Julius D. Spain, Sr., President of the branch stated, “Any death in the custody of law enforcement officials should require an independent investigation with full public disclosure. It has been reported that in Arlington there has now been at least three deaths in the past few years at this Detention Facility. It is time to find out the reasons why. Transparency, accountability, and review are extremely critical. The public deserves to know.”

Mr. Kent D. Carter, Vice President of the branch who serves as chair of the branch criminal justice committee added, “the Arlington Branch NAACP intends to push county leadership to include a review of ACPD/Sheriff Office collaboration and custody and detention policies as part of the work on the recently established police practices group.” Mr. Carter continued, “this death raises yet another area that we on the committee should be expected to analyze in order for our work to be meaningful.”

The deaths of inmates over the last few years in the local Detention Facility are overly concerning. The public needs to know what policies and procedures have been implemented to prevent inmate deaths.

Furthermore, while we understand Arlington County Police Department will investigate, we feel strongly that incidents of this nature should be investigated by an independent outside agency such as the Virginia State Police.

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An inmate died at the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse yesterday.

Paramedics were dispatched to the jail for a report of “CPR in progress” after the inmate was found unconscious in his cell at 4:17 p.m. on Thursday. Despite the resuscitation efforts, he was pronounced dead on scene by medics shortly after 4:45 p.m.

The inmate was identified as 46-year-old Darryl Becton. Court records show Becton, a D.C. resident, was in jail for an alleged probation violation after being arrested  on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Last September he pleaded guilty to felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, after initially being charged with grand theft auto.

The Sheriff’s Office says Becton’s family was notified of his death yesterday evening.

As is standard procedure, detectives from the police department are now conducting a death investigation, while the medical examiner conducts an autopsy to determine cause of death.

“Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected],” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. “To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Arlington County has accepted a grant that will help expand the county’s Behavioral Health Docket program — a service that diverts people with mental illnesses into treatment rather into jail.

The program accepts people who have diagnosed mental illnesses and have been charged with misdemeanors. Last November, a requirement for those in the program to plead guilty was eliminated.

The $146,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will primarily go to funding a full-time therapist position for two years. According to the staff report:

The position will assist program participants in developing and enhancing skills related to self-care, physical wellness, development of family and peer leisure pursuits, conflict resolution, stress management, positive peer modeling, developing a greater level of independence, improving treatment compliance, and increasing access to recreational groups and self-help groups (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous). Projected caseload for this position is 16-20 clients based on benchmarking and past experience.

“[This is] going to expand the behavioral health docket program services,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, “something advocated for and needed for quite a while.”

The staff report says that other parts of the grant funding will go to:

  • Medications
  • Group materials
  • Emergency housing placements
  • Transportation
  • Cell phones
  • Incentives
  • Clothing
  • Obtaining proper identification cards
  • Behavioral intervention consultation

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Appoints New Corrections Director — “Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur has announced the appointment of Major Gretchen Foster as the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Director of Corrections, effective Monday, June 22. Foster is the first female Director of Corrections in Arlington’s history.” [Arlington County]

Route 50 Blocked By Police Activity — A portion of Route 50 was blocked near Rosslyn yesterday afternoon after police conducted a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle. The car had been reported stolen by a rental car company, a police spokeswoman said. [Twitter]

Grocery Stores Running Out of Coins — “‘Grocery continues to be an environment where consumers prefer to use cash, with roughly one out of every five transactions being paid with cash,’ said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based [National Grocers Association]. ‘Independent grocery serves many communities throughout the U.S. that are underbanked or unbanked, and without availability of coinage, these customers are going to be hardest hit.'” [Progressive Grocer]

ARLnow Launches New IG Series — On Monday ARLnow launched a new Instagram story series featuring a local good news story each weekday evening. The #ARLGoodNews series is sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and will run for the next month. [Instagram]

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At least six inmates in the Arlington County jail have been released ahead of schedule, following the announcement that a sheriff’s deputy tested positive for coronavirus.

The releases came after the public defender’s office filed motions with Arlington Circuit Court to reconsider the sentences of around 20 inmates, a day after the April 23 announcement. Public Defender Brad Haywood says he also petitioned Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for clemency for 63 local inmates, though that request is still pending.

“We have spoken with the administration and they appear to be taking the request seriously,” Haywood said of the petition. “We are providing more detailed information to them at their request. No movement yet, but we remain optimistic.”

Jails and prisons across the U.S. have been especially vulnerable to spread of the virus, with around 5,000 infections and more than 100 deaths attributable to correctional facilities, according to the CDC.

Coronavirus “spreads easily and aggressively from person to person,” Haywood noted in an April 24 letter to the circuit court. “While there are no reported cases of COVID-19 among the Arlington County Detention Facility’s incarcerated population, because of and as evidenced by the Arlington Deputy Sheriff’s positive test, infiltration is inevitable.

“The risk to inmates is going to persist regardless of how effectively the pandemic is dealt with in the community,” he added. “This is a problem that cannot be avoided, and it is quite literally a matter of life and death.”

Haywood has been assisted in his efforts by Arlington’s top prosecutor, who took office at the beginning of the year after running on a criminal justice reform platform, and the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail. All three have been working to reduce the inmate population during the pandemic.

“Pretty early on, the public defender and I, and the Sheriff and I, got together and realized that what we really needed to do was thin out the jail population, both for the safety of the people who were incarcerated and also for the safety of the Sheriff’s deputies,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, during an online town hall about a week ago.

“We started going through the lists to ask the question, for each person do they really need to be there? So we were pulling files and proactively calling defense attorneys and suggesting they file motions for reconsideration,” she continued. “The public defender was doing this at exactly the same time. We’re lucky that we have a good relationship and so we were talking about the cases and collaborating.”

Despite concerns for the incarcerated, Tafti said it’s not realistic to empty the jails completely.

“Obviously we can’t let everybody out, but trying to get as many folks, and to be as surgical as possible — to ask the question: is this person really going to flee or is this person really going to reoffend?” said Tafti.

There has been a 25-30% reduction in prison population “over the past few months,” according to Tafti. Judges, meanwhile, haven’t always been as receptive to the idea of releasing inmates as the prosecutor’s office. The Washington Post reported in March that at least one Arlington judge was pushing back against recommendations to release certain inmates.

Arlington County police are contributing to the thinning of the jail population, Tafti said, in part by being more selective about who is held in jail and who is released pending trial.

“[Police] are actually issuing summonses more than arresting people, so they’ve tried to pull back that way,” she said. “In the initial bond hearings we’re still trying to be as surgical and careful as possible, and make sure as many people [get bail] as possible.”

Tafti said her office no longer asks for cash bail, but depending on circumstances still has to ask for some detainees to be held. It’s a tough decision, though, given the health risks in jail.

“It’s important that we don’t put them in a position where they’re likely to get sicker when they haven’t been convicted of a crime yet,” she said.

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An Arlington sheriff’s deputy has tested positive for COVID-19, raising fears of a wider outbreak in the county jail.

In a press release Thursday night, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office said the ailing employee is “is doing well and managing the illness at home, with the full support of family and the office.”

The Sheriff’s Office performs a number of law enforcement functions in Arlington, the most prominent of which is running the Arlington County Detention Center.

“Public Health officials have initiated contact tracing of the individual to determine any potential spread to other personnel, inmates or the community whom they have come into close contact with,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Individuals will be contacted directly if Public Health officials determine you may have been exposed. ACSO and Public Health will continue to monitor the individual’s condition and take necessary steps should any other agency personnel or inmates present symptoms.”

There have been calls nationwide — including by Arlington’s reform-minded top prosecutor —  to release non-violent offenders from jails and prisons due to the risk of rapid outbreaks in such facilities.

There are currently 225 inmates at the jail, according to ACSO spokeswoman Maj. Tara Johnson. That’s well below its capacity, which is currently in the mid-500s, Johnson said.

The Sheriff’s Office said it is taking a number of steps to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including daily temperature checks and symptom screening of staff and inmates, plus everything from daily cleanings to using disposable trays for meals.

“The steps the Sheriff’s Office has taken are continually reviewed by the Command Staff, which follows recommendations by the Virginia Department of Health,” the agency said. “These steps have and will continue to be modified regularly in order to best combat COVID-19. The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office takes the health and welfare of staff, the public and those placed into custody in the highest regard, treating every individual with dignity and respect and taking great pride and care in all work.”

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