Arlington law enforcement officials are launching a program to help people with addictions get help without jail time.
“Operation Safe Station” allows the Office of the Magistrate to waive charges on people with an addiction who turn themselves and their drugs in, and ask for help.
“Forgoing a prosecution and connecting individuals to treatment professionals is a first step in fighting this pernicious epidemic,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in a statement Tuesday.
The program is the latest effort combatting the opioid crisis after the county saw a 245 percent increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction between 2015 and 2017.
Operation Safe Station will refer participating people to “support groups, outpatient office based opioid treatment programs, Methadone programs, and when appropriate, residential treatment” per the description on the county’s website.
The program is a joint creation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Arlington County Police, and Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services (DHS).
In a Tuesday press release, Chief of Police Jay Farr, DHS Director Anita Friedman, and Sheriff Beth Arthur praised Operation Safe Station for “removing barriers” preventing people from seeking help with their addictions.
However, the program does not accept people who:
- Have outstanding arrest warrants
- Have been convicted of giving, selling, or distributing drugs, or convicted of doing so with the intent to manufacture
- Are under 18 years old and don’t have a guardian with them
- Are determined to be a threat to program staff by police
Those who do not meet these criteria still face arrest if they turn themselves in with controlled substances at the Magistrate’s Office.
Operation Safe Station participants must also agree to a search and sign an agreement committing themselves to the program.
The program’s announcement comes several months into Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos’ campaign for re-election. Challenger Parisa Tafti has criticized the prosecutor for being slow to implement criminal justice reform measures like eliminating cash bail.
Stamos has defended her record earlier this week by referencing success of her “Second Chance” program she says diverted 500 minors struggling with addict from court since its start in 2011 as well as a Drug Court program.
Police say Maura Fussell arrived at the magistrate’s office around 11:00 p.m. seeking to visit her husband, who had been arrested in Clarendon earlier that day. She was drunk, completely naked and refused to get dressed or leave in a cab, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
Sternbeck was unable to say whether Fussell arrived at the office wearing clothes and subsequently removed them, or whether she arrived there naked.
Fussell was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and drunk in public. She was held in jail until sober, police said.
A new video produced by Arlington County explains how the local Office of the Magistrate works.
Magistrates are independent judicial officers who determine whether probable cause exists for criminal complaints by law enforcement officers and members of the public.
“Magistrate duties include issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, bonds, search warrants, and medical detention orders,” according to the county’s website. “Magistrates also conduct bail hearings in instances in which an individual is arrested on a warrant charging him or her with a criminal offense. Magistrates provide services 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Arlington magistrate’s office is located at 2020 15th Street N., on the ground floor of the county jail.
The young woman seen being arrested and locked up in the video, for the record, was an intern in the police department’s media relations and public affairs office, not an actual criminal.