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Police looking for evidence where shots were fired at officers along S. Wakefield Street in Barcroft (staff photo)

(Updated 4:45 p.m.) Gov. Glenn Youngkin has announced he’s increasing funds to police departments in a bid to reduce homicides, shootings and violent crime in Virginia.

The move, part of a new policy initiative from the Republican governor, will have implications for Arlington police, prosecutors and local restorative justice initiatives.

More than $100 million is slated to go toward state and local agencies to fix wage compression, increase recruiting efforts — including an expedited training program for police officers moving from one department to another — and provide more equipment and training, per a press release.

“The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) has not been in touch with the Governor’s Office regarding yesterday’s announcement,” spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

While the impact on ACPD is still hazy, Arlington Coalition of Police President Randall Mason confirms ACPD’s struggles with recruitment, retention and pay compression, which were exclusively reported by ARLnow last year, mirror those highlighted in Youngkin’s announcement.

Although the 2023-24 budget will play “the biggest role” in staffing, he said, Mason projects that Youngkin’s sped-up, eight-week training academy could be a boon, as it would make it easier for officers to switch from Maryland and D.C. departments to Arlington’s.

“Getting more officers onto the street quicker would benefit both officers and the public,” he said. “ACPD could see a significant benefit from the lateral academy depending on what happens in the upcoming fiscal year.”

Of ACPD’s 377 authorized, sworn police officers, 278 are able to provide solo law enforcement services, Savage said. Sixty positions are unfilled and 39 officers are in a training or have light duty status.

The police department’s 16% vacancy rate is higher than almost all of ACPD’s regional competitors and that gap is poised to widen, Mason said.

“We are on pace to lose more officers than we hire for the second straight year, increasing our vacancy rate even further,” he said. “That is in spite of ACPD’s recruitment staff traveling all over the East Coast, up to 400 miles away, trying to find new officers.”

Recruitment and retention efforts in Arlington (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s 2022-23 budget includes merit-based increases, signing bonuses and work week reductions to try and address these challenges, but Mason says this doesn’t address another gripe officers have with pay — the county’s pay system.

Unlike other jurisdictions, which reward years of service with set pay increases, Arlington has an “open range” system where officers who have less seniority can end up getting paid more than an officer in their same rank, which is the case for a majority of ACOP members, he said.

“You don’t feel valued for the number of years you’ve been here, when someone who’s been here less time is making more than you,” he said.

Additionally, the hiring challenge comes down to the high cost of living.

“Arlington County is a very expensive place to live and work. Over 60% of ACOP members don’t live in the county,” he said. “It’s ACOP’s opinion that Arlington County’s failure to account for Arlington’s high cost of living is the main explanation for ACPD’s vacancy rate being higher than regional competitors.”

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Morning Notes

A rainbow in the sky without the rain (photo courtesy Leslie Koch)

Saturday Afternoon’s Painted Sky — From the Capital Weather Gang: “A couple more nice examples of this circumhorizon arc being see all over the DMV. We wrote about these a few years ago… not uncommon high in the sky around midday during summer.” [Twitter]

Local Woman Harassed in Metro Station — “A 21-year-old woman is sharing the frightening experience she had when a stranger yelled at and harassed her for 10-straight minutes at a Metro station this week in Washington, D.C. Helen Molteni, of Arlington, Virginia, said she was on the platform at the Foggy Bottom station when a man came up to her and started harassing her.” [NBC 4]

Va. Attorney General Visits — “Virginia’s attorney general met with local nonprofit groups in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday for a roundtable listening session about addressing poverty and community needs… Miyares was joined by representatives from the Office of the Attorney General and the Arlington County police in sitting down with members of various faith organizations and nonprofit programs, including Arlington Bridge Builders, a local community coalition with the mission of helping people in need.” [WTOP]

APS Students Top National Competition — “Lina Barclay and Ellie Nix, two Arlington Tech graduates from the Arlington Career Center, won the first-place gold medal in the Television (Video) Production contest at the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference and SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta. Barclay and Nix represented Virginia in this contest and competed against 37 other teams across the United States.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Are These Pike Apartments Historic? — “Members of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) have opted against moving forward, for now, on a proposal to confer historic-district status on a 70-year-old apartment compound in the Arlington Mill neighborhood. But the buildings may end up preserved, nonetheless.” [Sun Gazette]

Rents Keep Rising Rapidly — “The median rental price for an Arlington apartment grew 2.8 percent from June to July, according to new data, ranking the county third nationally among the 100 largest urban areas in terms of price growth. With the increase, Arlington’s median rent now stands at $2,121 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,538 for two bedrooms.” [Sun Gazette]

Crash at Infamous I-395 Exit — From Dave Statter: “Another considerate driver signals before making a left turn across 4 lanes of I-395S. But their #8CDash came to an abrupt halt when the driver in the last lane somehow didn’t see that signal — or just didn’t believe what they were seeing.” [Twitter]

Office to Apartment Conversions Ramp Up — “‘There really hasn’t been a time like right now, where office is on the decline to the point that [an empty building] is basically the same value as just the land,’ says Lindsay Stroud, a structured-finance broker with the commercial real-estate firm Savills. One possible solution: more office-to-residential conversions like Park & Ford.” [Washingtonian]

It’s August 1 — Partly cloudy throughout the day, with spotty rain possible later. High of 86 and low of 72. Sunrise at 6:11 am and sunset at 8:21 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Leslie Koch

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti at an NAACP and Black Lives Matter rally in June 2020 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares visited Arlington yesterday (Thursday) to launch a political fund aimed at unseating progressive prosecutors.

The reform-minded approach of “left-wing liberal prosecutors” has “directly resulted in higher crime in our communities and they must be stopped,” Miyares said in a statement that specifically called out Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.

The goal of the Protecting Americans Action Fund, he said, is to “elect District Attorneys who will enforce the law and prosecute criminals, instead of this warped version of criminal justice, which is endangering Americans.”

Miyares did not name-drop Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Descano’s Arlington counterpart, but coming to Arlington was enough to prompt her to mount a defense of her prosecutorial approach.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church fired back on Twitter with a volley of tweets.

Dehghani-Tafti was elected in 2019 on a pledge to reform the criminal justice system by reducing racial disparities in prosecution as well as recidivism and incarceration, while investigating wrongful convictions. Last year, there was an effort to recall her that accused Dehghani-Tafti of offering criminals lenient plea deals.

Miyares contends crime is up in places like Northern Virginia, under the leadership of Descano, Dehghani-Tafti and Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj. But Arlington’s top prosecutor says these jurisdictions “have the lowest crime rates of any large jurisdictions in Virginia and country.”

She reiterated the crime trends she touted earlier this year, including that her jurisdiction recorded no homicides in 2021 — down from three homicides in 2020 and two in 2019.

(Two reported deaths last year were in federal jurisdiction, including the police officer who was stabbed, shot and killed outside the Pentagon and the security contractor who died at the U.S. State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center.)

“I’ve long resisted the claim that the drop in homicide is due solely to my policies. Instead, I’ve credited the work of our County Board, local delegation, police department, school board, defense bar, public defender, and community and faith groups in teaming up to prevent crime,” she said.

“And yet, the AG and other anti-reformers have no hesitation in cherry picking any individual incident or any uptick in any crime, however slight, to mislead the public and paint a false picture of our reform achievements,” she continued.

Some crimes were trending up during her election year, 2019, and continued upward during her first year of office. This includes an uptick in property crimes, driven largely by carjackings, according to 2020 crime data — the most recent available from Arlington County Police Department.

This uptick prompted more police patrols and coordinated regional response in 2021, which may explain why, according to preliminary ACPD data for last year, carjackings dropped from 16 in 2020 to eight, while car thefts dropped from 323 in 2020 to 306.

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Morning Notes

The creek by Disc Golf Tee near Bluemont park shows a frozen shape of the American Eagle last week (photo courtesy of Niranjan Konduri)

Bar Ivy in Clarendon May Open in Spring — “Clarendon is a long way from California, but the neighborhood may feel a little closer to the West Coast with the opening of Bar Ivy this spring… The breezy coastal-style restaurant and bar will have a lush 125-seat patio for sipping local coffee drinks in the morning and sampling wines alongside seafood towers in the evening.” [Washingtonian]

Miyares is ‘New Sheriff in Town’ — “Virginia’s new Attorney General Jason S. Miyares has already launched a probe of a state parole board he feels failed crime victims, fired several employees, including in a unit that investigates wrongful convictions, and blasted liberal prosecutors who seek lighter sentences.” [Washington Post]

Yorktown Girls Basketball Now 8-3 — Visiting Yorktown won 61-37 Washington-Liberty Generals in the Liberty District clash between Arlington rivals. Yorktown defeated the Wakefield Warriors, 56-30, in its next game against another Arlington and district rival. [Sun Gazette]

Forecasters Discuss Snowfall Bust — “After our forecast of a coating to two inches of snow in the region, most places saw no accumulation Thursday morning. Some spots didn’t even see a flake, only raindrops… How did forecasts end up being so wrong? The flawed predictions can be traced to computer model errors and the inability of human forecasters to adequately account for them.” [Washington Post]

It’s Friday — Today will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 26. Sunrise at 7:22 a.m. and sunset at 5:17 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 31. [Weather.gov]

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Serrano Apartments (via Google Maps)

Attorney General Jason Miyares won’t be axing a state investigation into potential housing discrimination against residents of the Serrano Apartments launched under his predecessor.

Early last week, the civil rights division of the Office of the Attorney General — led by former AG Mark Herring — began searching for evidence of discrimination against tenants based on their race, national origin and disability by local affordable housing developer AHC Inc., which owns the Columbia Pike affordable housing complex.

“The ultimate goal of this inquiry is to determine whether unlawful discrimination is taking place, and if so, to eliminate those discriminatory practices and ensure that non-discriminatory housing opportunities are available to all,” two attorneys with the OAG’s Office of Civil Rights division said in a letter to the local branch of the NAACP requesting any information the group may have.

A few days after the letter was sent, the future of the investigation was thrown into jeopardy when Miyares fired at least one of the letter’s co-authors, Helen Hardiman, after taking office last weekend, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

His dismissal of 30 staff — including 17 attorneys, the Richmond newspaper reports — generated a buzz over how his office will treat civil rights violations in Virginia.

Despite these changes, the inquiry into the Serrano apartments is set to go forward, Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said.

“The inquiry into the housing conditions will absolutely still happen and any wrongdoing found will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law,” LaCivita tells ARLnow. “We’ve brought in a team full of bright and dedicated lawyers who are looking forward to examining every case with a fresh perspective and working with the OAG staff.”

The inquiry, which the local branch of the NAACP publicized on Wednesday, comes nine months after residents and advocates told ARLnow about the poor living conditions at the Serrano (5535 Columbia Pike). They described rodent infestations and mold as well as deferred maintenance and disrespectful treatment by management.

In response, AHC says it has made a number of changes under the eye of the Arlington County Board, undertaking repairs, installing new leadership, adding communication channels and establishing a claims process for damaged belongings. The saga has inspired a handful of bills going before the Virginia House of Delegates and now, the OAG’s investigation.

Tenant advocates say they’re encouraged the Serrano saga reached the state level at all.

“It set a precedent,” longtime advocate Janeth Valenzuela tells ARLnow. “We want this to continue and I hope that Miyares will see this not as a political thing we are doing.”

The investigation will explore if AHC imposed discriminatory terms on residents or made discriminatory statements based on race and national origin or refused reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, wrote Hardiman and fellow attorney Palmer Heenan.

Susan Cunningham, the interim CEO of AHC, responded to the inquiry in the following statement to ARLnow.

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Morning Notes

New AG Targets N. Va. Prosecutors — “Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares said that he and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will pursue legislation to enable the state’s attorney general to circumvent ‘social justice’ commonwealth’s attorneys who refuse to vigorously prosecute crimes. At a news conference on Thursday, Miyares laid out ‘one of our major legislative initiatives’ which Youngkin ‘has already indicated that he would sign… into law.'” [Fox News]

Department Bans ‘Kill’ from Feedback — From Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt: “Today I learned it’s against our ‘Community Guidelines’ to tell DES that their designs are going to get someone killed.” [Twitter]

Younger Va. Voters Get Less Blue — From ARLnow opinion columnist Nicole Merlene: “Millennials and Gen Z swung almost 10% from Ds to Rs in the #VAGov election. That is ONE THIRD of voters in Virginia. More % of voters than college educated white women — so why are they the story?” [Twitter]

Local Legion Post Getting New Flagpole — “The Arlington House chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on Oct. 28 presented a financial contribution in support of the effort to raise a new flagpole at the post, which is being redeveloped in partnership with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). DAR chapter regent Nancy Weinberg in 2020 contacted Bob Romano, then-post commander of Sgt. Dorothy M. Doyle American Legion Post 139, to discuss what could be done to assist Post 139 during the construction period.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 54. Sunrise at 7:40 a.m. and sunset at 6:03 p.m. Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 56, while Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 58.

Join the ARLnow Press Club — Get the Morning Notes early and find out what we’re planning to cover that day. Plus exclusive text alerts, insights and more. Sign up now.

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