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Morning Notes

Prelude to Speed Cameras in Arlington — “This week the D.C. region’s Transportation Planning Board announced it is awarding a $60,000 grant to help Arlington with its plans to install the first-ever speed cameras in the county. The TPB says the money will go towards consulting services to help Arlington County install speed cameras in a fair, data-driven manner.” [WJLA]

NAACP Wanted Stronger Police Oversight — “Despite the County Board’s recent adoption of a Community Oversight Board (COB) ordinance, we are disappointed that the County Board refused to adopt the General Assembly-approved authority for the COB to be truly independent and to make binding disciplinary determinations. Nevertheless, we will work with all parties to ensure that the process is equitable and transparent.” [Press Release]

Judge’s Ruling on Rouse Estate Suit — “On May 14, Reeder filed a challenge to the county board’s rejection of local historic district status that some hoped would have protected the now-demolished 160-year-old Febrey-Lothrop house… Judge DiMatteo said Reeder faced ‘an uphill battle.’ The community ‘is not voiceless,’ she said. A community member can speak to board members and, if one doesn’t like their decision, ‘vote them out.’ But without standing, that party can’t appeal in court. Virginia law, she said, requires an ‘aggrieved party.’ She rejected Reeder’s claim.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Friday Carbeque on Route 29 — “Video from van fire and fuel leak impacting traffic on eastbound Lee Highway at Kirkwood.” [Twitter, Twitter]

GOP Blasts County for Biden Event — “Arlington County is misusing taxpayer resources and county bandwidth to actively promote a partisan campaign rally. One-party rule in Arlington continues to produce a lack of accountability for our elected leaders and county officials. Not only are they actively promoting a political event, they also went a step further to link to the event RSVP page.” [Press Release]

Guess the Price of This House — “The beauty of this 5,227 square-foot lot in Arlington, VA, is in its simplicity. Along with being a short Uber ride to Washington, DC, amenities include: Attached garage with one parking space, Big trees, Water heater (not new, just one in general), Great location to build on if you’re cool with bulldozing the home. How much for the world’s most average house?” [Morning Brew, Zillow]

Reminder: Vote in This Week’s Arlies — Do you have a favorite preschool or daycare you take your children to? Cast your vote in this week’s Arlies category by midday tomorrow. [ARLnow]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Traffic Still Way Down — “New numbers provided to 7News by the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) show… weekday traffic in Arlington County in June 2021 was still down 26% versus June 2019. But that was an outlier – in Fairfax County traffic was only down 12%, Loudoun County just 8%, and Prince William County was basically back to normal, falling just 3% versus June 2019.” [WJLA]

A-SPAN Rebrands — “What began life three decades ago as the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, or A-SPAN, has assumed a new identity: PathForward… ‘We came to the conclusion that we needed a new name to match all that we do,’ the organization’s board chair, Tim Denning, said.” [Sun Gazette]

Route 1 Makes NYT List — “The New York Times this May compiled a list of ’50s-era American highways being re-thought in an age when environmental concerns and past racial injustices in land use are at the national forefront. Arlington’s section of Route 1, that elevated structure that pierces Crystal City, made the cut.” [Falls Church News-Press]

AWLA Reunites Raccoon Mom and Baby — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Officer Elpers got some amazing footage of this mama raccoon reuniting with her baby this morning.” [Facebook]

Local NAACP Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington branch of the NAACP recently awarded nearly $60,000 in college scholarships to Arlington high-school students.” [Sun Gazette]

Big Donation to VHC — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a transformative gift of $5 million from long-time donor Lola ​C. ​Reinsch to promote the Hospital’s campus expansion efforts.” [Press Release]

Darby Family Visits ACFD Station — “Ashley Darby is having plenty of family fun with her kids this summer. The Real Housewives of Potomac cast member [and Arlington resident] recently took to Instagram to capture their latest outing that left her two-year-old son, Dean, completely ‘lost for words’… ‘What a fun time we had at the Arlington County Fire Station 4 with our friends!’ she wrote in the caption.” [Bravo]

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After residents spoke out about poor living conditions at the Serrano Apartments, county officials and building owner AHC Inc. say they are committed to making changes.

“It is the highest priority I have right now, in part because we are in a different place with vaccines,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti tells ARLnow. “This is a health and safety issue I will take responsibility for.”

AHC said it is working with county officials, Arlington’s Housing Commission and community organizations to ensure residents’ concerns are heard and addressed.

“Over the past few days, Serrano’s new management company Drucker & Falk has completed more than half of its 100% inspection of the property (except for the apartments where residents have not provided access) to document and remediate all identified issues through systemic improvements given Serrano’s age,” AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater said. “We are now moving forward with the repairs and encourage everyone to visit our website for updates about the steps we are taking to ensure that all Serrano residents have safe and healthy homes.”

Earlier this month, residents and community leaders told ARLnow about the dire state of some committed affordable apartment units at The Serrano (5535 Columbia Pike). Problems include rodents eating through food and leaving droppings, mold growing on walls and white dust permeating HVAC conductors.

Residents and advocates say they are glad the plight of those living in The Serrano is getting attention but are also frustrated at how many people and walkthroughs it took to get the county and AHC, an affordable housing nonprofit, to act.

The most recent walkthrough was last Friday, when about 40 people, including county officials, Del. Alfonso Lopez, as well as AHC and management representatives, looked at units and talked to residents.

“There were a lot of people there who were supposed to be there a long time ago,” community organizer Janeth Valenzuela said. “Finally, they could experience this with their own eyes and listen to families.”

Former School Board member Tannia Talento said she was frustrated to disrupt the lives of families once more, while not knowing if changes would actually happen.

Ashley Goff, a pastor with Arlington Presbyterian Church, was critical of AHC’s lack of responsiveness to an issue that was many months in the making.

“Look at all the people that had to turn out to get AHC to pay attention,” she said. “They were shamed into taking action, absolutely.”

(An Arlington NAACP newsletter from November, providing an update on its advocacy about conditions at the Serrano, said that the “exhausting battle by the tenants and their allies” — the NAACP and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) — had been ongoing since at least the fall of 2019.)

Conditions provoke strong reactions 

The Serrano has 196 committed affordable units and 84 market-rate units. After walking through about a dozen apartments, officials said the conditions were unacceptable and needed to be fixed, quickly.

“I long ago lived in a place that had a problem with rats and no one can actually relax in their home when they’re worried that there could be mice there,” de Ferranti said.

Some problems will be more difficult, but no less essential, to solve due to the building’s age, he said.

“The medium-term solution for holding AHC accountable is getting a clear and specific schedule of what must be done at the Serrano,” he said. “I could envision taking the form of a short, specific Memorandum of Understanding. That is a step over the coming month or two that we are likely to take.”

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Units in the Serrano Apartments, a high-rise housing complex on Columbia Pike, have three things going for them: they are spacious, have nice views, and are affordable.

“But if you go inside those units, the reality is totally different,” said Janeth Valenzuela, who has been advocating for better living conditions for Serrano tenants for two years.

Mice and rat infestations. Balconies with broken glass and rust. Dirty HVAC units with water damage underneath. Shoddy maintenance.

These are just some of the problems inside the 280-unit apartment building at 5535 Columbia Pike, not just according to Valenzuela, but also the Arlington NAACP, immigrant and tenants’ rights group BU-GATA, interfaith clergy group VOICE Arlington, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement (ACE) Collaborative.

“It’s sickening,” said NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain. “This is a dereliction of duty and someone needs to be held accountable.”

Two weeks ago, Spain and the NAACP Housing Committee Chair Kellen MacBeth walked through a handful of apartment units, taking pictures of the conditions. They wrote a letter to County Manager Mark Schwartz detailing the conditions and asking Schwartz to assign staff to work with tenants, rehabilitate the units and rewrite policy so all residents have safe, decent and affordable homes.

“We observed severe problems that suggest a culture of deferred maintenance and underinvestment in the property during our walk-through,” the letter said.

The walk-through, however, was a tipping point after two years of work behind the scenes to help tenants.

“We are tired because there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” Valenzuela said. “It’s pure injustice.”

Under new management

The Serrano Apartments are owned by AHC Inc., an Arlington-based affordable housing developer, which acquired the building in 2014 in partnership with Arlington County. Since then, the nonprofit has spent millions of dollars making improvements. The building has 196 committed affordable units and 84 market-rate units, according to AHC.

AHC is aware of the issues raised by the community organizations and has been working hard on them “for a while now,” said spokeswoman Celia Slater. One of its most recent changes was to hire a new management company, which “is very good at customer service and has an excellent track record.”

According to county spokeswoman Erika Moore, the county required that switch based on the conditions at the property.

Elder Julio Basurto, who has worked with Valenzuela these last two years, said the management change is the result of advocacy.

“It’s not something AHC has done on their own,” he said, adding that “there are a lot of things that are still not right.”

The management company, which started in February, told AHC it will take about six months before the building’s issues get in order, she said. Already, Slater tallied 586 work orders, of which 39 had to do with pests like bugs and rodents.

“We’ve made a lot of progress since they’ve started, but we know there are still issues to address,” Slater said.

This month, 100% of the vents and convectors will be cleaned again by the end of May, she said.

“Many tenants appreciate the new management but they believe that just because there’s a new management it does not mean the root problems are solved,” said Maryam Mustafa, a community organizer with ACE.

Saul Reyes, executive director of BU-GATA, said the Serrano is an old building with lots of issues exacerbated by deferred maintenance.

“We’ve been working with residents, resolving their individual issues with management, making sure work orders get done to tenant satisfaction,” he said. “Part of the problem is that the issues are so extensive and take so long to resolve that residents get frustrated.”

While the new management company works to get things under control, Slater said AHC is working to build trust with residents. The organization established an on-site residents services office with a bilingual manager, started distributing more than 100 meals a week, and has hosted a pop-up vaccination clinic.

“We care about the people in the community and we want to do all we can to make sure their living environment is up to our standards,” Slater said.

But a big problem is communication, she said, alleging that residents are not telling AHC what is going on.

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This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.

At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.

Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.

Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.

Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.

That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.

Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.

“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”

Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.

Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.

“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”

Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”

A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.

Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.

“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”

Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.

“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.

Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.

Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.

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A paperwork snafu may prevent a local House of Delegates candidate, Matt Rogers, from going up against fellow Democrat Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).

Rogers, who recently wrapped up 3.5 years serving as Chief of Staff for Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and is running to unseat Hope, reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline for two documents, according to the State Board of Elections.

As a result, he may not be on the June 8 Democratic primary ballot.

The challenger tells ARLnow that he mailed these documents to the state last June, but did not use certified mail, “which was a huge mistake.” Now, he is calling on the SBE to grant a deadline extension so these filings can be fixed.

“Having worked in these circles for a number of years, I was well-aware of the elements of filing and the responses from the State Board of Elections and their habits of communication with candidates — especially incumbents — having been on the receiving end of their entreaties,” he writes in a blog post.

The SBE met on March 31 to discuss candidates who requested an extension, including pastor and Richmond City Councilmember Mike Jones. According to Virginia law, such an extension would be applied to all candidates, not just those making the request, said David Nichols, the Elections Services Manager for the Department of Elections, during the meeting.

Ultimately, that board did not grant one, breaking with past decisions.

“I’ve made my position pretty clear on this matter: The failure of candidates to comply with statutory filing requirements places this board in a very unfair position,” SBE Chair Bob Brink, a former state legislator from Arlington, said during the meeting.

Brink said he has urged both the chairs of the state Democratic and Republican parties to ensure candidates comply with filing deadlines.

“I stressed that while the board had granted an extension of the filing deadline in the past, there was no assurance it would do so in the future,” Brink said.

https://twitter.com/MattForDelegate/status/1377964135665836032

In Virginia, partisan candidates for elected office are required to file paperwork declaring their candidacy with their local political parties, Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. Those parties must confirm with the Virginia Department of Elections which candidates have filed this paperwork.

“Arlington Democrats did that for all candidates who filed paperwork with the local Democratic party in connection with the upcoming election to represent the 47th District in the House of Delegates,” Caiazzo said.

As a courtesy, when Arlington Dems sent that notification to the department, the organization copied all candidates who filed paperwork with the local party, she said. But Rogers’ alleged misfiling is separate from the local process she described.

“Separately, candidates are required to file a different set of paperwork with the Department of Elections,” she said. “Local political parties play no role with respect to that separate filing requirement.”

Rogers is one of eight candidates who could be barred from being on the ballot due to paperwork problems.

During a Virginia Board of Elections meeting this week, the head of the Virginia Department of Elections told the three-person panel these candidates “just didn’t get it in on time.”

“At the end of the day, people didn’t get them in, I don’t think it was a lack of information sharing or knowledge sharing on our part,” Christopher Piper, the commissioner of the department, said.

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Morning Notes

County Still Prepping for Preservation Hearing — “Even though the razing of the Rouse estate may be at hand, the Arlington County government’s historic-preservation staff is taking the steps necessary if public hearings on preservation of the site go forward in April… But nearly all parties now expect that the buildings on the 9-acre site will be razed before those hearings occur.” [Sun Gazette]

Preservationist Compares Estate to Auschwitz — Tom Dickinson, who’s leading the charge to save the Rouse estate, directed the following statement to the County Board over the weekend, referencing the likelihood that enslaved people built part of the estate: “If you, the board, do not intervene to stop this destruction of this sacred site, your individual and collective legacy will be stained forever by a lack of honor and respect for those who labored and suffered to create these structures at this site, and the desecration of them… It would be the equivalent of allowing the destruction of the crematory ovens at Auschwitz.” [Sun Gazette]

Northam Further Easing COVID Restrictions — “Governor Northam has further amended Executive Order 72 to modify public health restrictions in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. These changes come as Virginia’s vaccination rate is steady and case counts are fluctuating. Effective April 1, limits on social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 for indoor gatherings, and from 25 to 100 for outdoor gatherings.” [Arlington County]

NAACP Head Receives FBI Community Award — “FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) Steven M. D’Antuono is pleased to announce Mr. Julius Spain, Sr., as the recipient of the 2020 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for WFO. Mr. Spain serves as President of the Arlington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).” [FBI]

Arlington Free Clinic’s Vaccination Effort — “Officials and community organizations are scrambling to close this racial gap in vaccine access. One such organization is the Arlington Free Clinic, which serves uninsured adults, many of them undocumented immigrants, in Arlington County. The clinic is holding vaccination days twice a week and working with other local social service organizations to develop an alternate pathway for low-income communities of color to get vaccinated.” [WAMU]

Former AP Bureau Chief Dies — “Charles Lewis, a former Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press and The Hearst Newspapers who tirelessly advocated for the release of AP journalist Terry Anderson from kidnappers in Lebanon, died Saturday. He was 80. Lewis, of Arlington, Virginia, died at a hospital from complications from cancer.” [Associated Press]

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New video and audio is shedding additional light on the controversial encounter between Arlington police officers and a Black photographer in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.

Bodycam footage of the Dec. 21 encounter and audio of a neighbor’s call to police, which prompted the incident, were released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Arlington branch of the NAACP. The media was shared tonight with ARLnow.

During the call, an unidentified female neighbor tells police that the photographer, who was at the time sitting in his parked BMW, was taking photos of the gate to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, as well as “neighbors and people that are walking by.”

“We confronted him and he just wouldn’t engage… he’s just sitting there taking pictures,” the caller says. “I’m not sure if that’s illegal but it’s kind of creepy.”

The caller later reports that the photographer was “smiling and walking down the street, taking more pictures,” and then “engaging with a lady,” adding that “they apparently know each other.” She also noted that he had a “camera with a large lens.”

The man in question was Marlon Crutchfield, a professional photographer who’s retired from the military. He was hired by a family on the block to take holiday photos.

In a Dec. 23 Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by a neighbor — apparently the caller’s husband — but declined to answer his questions.

“Over the years I’ve had several run-ins with nosy neighbors concerned that a Black man was parked in their neighborhood,” he wrote. ” Well… the other day I was in Arlington parked waiting for an appointment when a man came over and asked me if I needed any help, of course I didn’t. I informed the gentleman that I didn’t need any assistance. Honestly — I was offended. Every Black person knows what this means.”

“After the gentleman didn’t get the response he expected, he reached out to a few other neighbors one of them called the police,” Crutchfield wrote.

Bodycam footage released by the Arlington County Police Department shows three ACPD officers and three military police officers responding to the scene after the call. One Arlington officer knocks on the door of the house in which Crutchfield was shooting photos and asks to speak with him.

(Arlington police had just implemented body-worn cameras the week before the encounter.)

During the four-minute encounter, Crutchfield insists that, contrary to what the “very nosy neighbor” told police, he was just holding his camera and wasn’t taking photos of the base. He briefly flashes the officer an ID card — implied to be a military ID card, but edited out of the video — and says he knows better than taking photos of the military base.

“I’m offended,” Crutchfield says to the officer. “I’m at work… you’re interrupting my job.”

The officer asks the photographer, who is still holding his camera, to present identification.

“This is very racist, and you should know better,” Crutchfield says in response, refusing the request. Eventually, the homeowner also begins talking to officers, saying that “he’s with me” and agreeing that the call to police was “racist.”

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Police Department says the officers who questioned a Black man for taking photos in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood acted properly and professionally.

The Dec. 21 incident, which sparked headlines and a strong condemnation from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, happened after police were called to the neighborhood by someone who found real estate photographer Marlon Crutchfield to be suspicious.

In a Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by “nosy neighbors,” who then called police when he declined to explain why he was taking photos. Several officers arrived and, in a brief interaction that was video recorded, Crutchfield refuses the officers’ request to hand over an ID. Shortly after that, the officers appear to leave.

In response to a series of questions posed by ARLnow, a police department spokeswoman explained the series of events leading to the encounter, and defended the officers’ actions and the need to respond the call, which was placed by someone only identified as “a community member.”

“At approximately 10:35 a.m. on December 21, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person and vehicle in the area of Southgate Road and South Orme Street,” ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. “The reporting party advised dispatch that the male subject had been taking photos of the Southgate entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and people walking provided additional information that the subject had left the area of the entrance and entered a nearby residence.”

The website OpenMHz captured audio of the initial police dispatch.

Clark said the response was justified based on the information provided to police.

Military installations are considered high value targets and events around the world, to include the events of September 11, 2001, have shown this to be true. If someone is taking photos of these areas, it is certainly cause for concern, and is worthy of reporting to law enforcement for investigation based upon guidelines published by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The area by the base is posted with signs prohibiting photography and, for this reason, the base was notified of the report the department had received.

The Department has a responsibility to respond to calls for service, investigate the circumstances, and determine appropriate action. Dispatched calls for service are based upon preliminary information provided by the reporting party and follow-up investigations may identify additional, or different, information than initially provided.

We recognize the emotional impact this incident has had on the involved individual The Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect and we will work with the community to achieve balance between ensuring the safety of our community and the ambiguity involving what may be considered suspicious.

Asked if officers should have done anything differently, ACPD defended their actions and professionalism.

The Department stands by its response to this incident. In order to ensure public safety within our community, officers have a duty to respond to dispatched calls for service and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding them. Efforts to address crime in our community are most effective when they involve strong collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement and the communities and citizens they serve.

While the behaviors described to ACPD were considered suspicious in nature given all of the circumstances, it was determined that no local crime had been committed, officers cleared the call without taking further action, and the entire interaction with the individual lasted under four minutes.

We appreciate that what constitutes suspicious behavior can be ambiguous, but we must work together to ensure police are notified of suspicious behaviors that could represent a threat to our community, while at the same time ensuring that the focus remains on the behaviors of a person and nothing else. […]

Our officers conducted themselves in a professional manner and came to the determination that no local crimes had occurred.

The Arlington NAACP, however, said in response that the police department should have investigated the origin of the initial complaint, which they claim was embellished in order to provoke a police response.

“ACPD should have started with the alleged witnesses before harassing a professional photographer and embarrassing him by pulling him out of the home where he was an invited guest and interrogating him in front of his client,” the organization said to ARLnow, in a statement.

“The police asked for the victim’s ID before even explaining why they were there or even asking him if he was near the base or what his activities were before entering the clients home,” the organization said. “That is sloppy police work guaranteed to elicit an emotionally charged response. Asking for ID first and only is a racially laden request in the Black community.”

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Morning Notes

Columbia Pike Resident Goes Missing — “ACPD seeks the public’s assistance locating Ms. Amanda Aniston, last seen Dec. 12, 2020 in the 1200 blk of S. Courthouse Rd. She is described as a Black female, brown hair, brown eyes, approx. 5’9″, 140 lbs. She may be in need of medical services.” [ACPD]

Did False Report Lead to Police Encounter? — “The head of the Arlington NAACP, Julius D. Spain Sr… said he would seek a meeting with Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and ‘if someone needs to be charged with making a false report, so be it.’ Crutchfield said in his complaint that ‘the neighbor who called the police lied about me taking pictures of the military base nearby to trigger a police response.'” [Washington Post]

Early Voting ‘Here to Stay’ — “Arlington is likely to provide a number of satellite centers for early voting in the 2021 general election – but how many there will be, and where they will be located, remain open questions. ‘Early voting is here to stay,’ predicted county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer, briefing Electoral Board members during a Dec. 16 meeting.” [InsideNova]

County May Help With Caucuses — “Find yourself in need of holding an election? The Arlington County Electoral Board soon may be able to help. Board members voted 3-0 on Dec. 16 to move forward on a policy that would allow political parties and, potentially, other groups to rent equipment and use election-office personnel during their own elections… Those doing the renting also would have to reimburse the cost.” [InsideNova]

New Rosslyn Apartment to Be Temporary Hotel — “Penzance Cos. is bringing in a pop-up hotel startup to help fill a portion of its massive mixed-use project on the western side of Rosslyn. Kasa Living is looking to use 100 units at The Highlands at 1555 Wilson Blvd. as temporary hotel rooms, according to a new filing from Penzance with Arlington County planners. The fully furnished apartments will serve as short-term rentals offered up by Kasa for up to seven years.” [Washington Business Journal]

Christmas Eve Scare for Barcroft Residents — “Missile into occupied dwelling… 4600 block of 9th Street S. At approximately 3:56 p.m. on December 24, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims were inside a residence when they heard a loud noise and observed an object had been thrown at a window, causing it to break.” [ACPD]

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The Arlington NAACP is decrying an incident in which a Black man was questioned by Arlington County police last week for photographing a house.

The incident happened on Monday, Dec. 21, in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood, near the Air Force Memorial. A video and an account of what happened was posted on Facebook and first reported by Blue Virginia.

Marlon Crutchfield, a professional photographer who specializes in real estate, was photographing a client’s home when, according to his post, a “nosy neighbor” started to question what he was doing.

“A man came over and asked me if I needed any help, of course I didn’t,” Crutchfield wrote. “I informed the gentleman that I didn’t need any assistance. Honestly — I was offended. Every black person knows what this means… I am retired from the US Army with a Bronze Star. I am also a former Federal Law Enforcement Officer. I’ve taught my kids through the years to be good citizens to be good people in general but it seems as though things change slowly.”

Crutchfield said police started showing up after the encounter, apparently called by another neighbor. He posted a video of the police encounter, during which he declines an officer’s request to hand over identification.

“Have you seen me commit a crime? Has anybody seen me commit a crime?” he asks.

The homeowner with whom he was working can be heard questioning why police were called and calling the situation “very racist.” Eventually the officers leave as Crutchfield goes back inside the home.

“Have a great day, sir,” one of the officers says.

“NEVER have I been so embarrassed. It was hurtful and demeaning in so many ways,” Crutchfield later recounted on Facebook. “It could’ve gotten a lot worse… we’ve seen this many times as of late. It’s time for change.”

Photography is not a crime, though police in Arlington frequently respond to calls about “suspicious” people seen photographing buildings in various parts of the county. The Arlington branch of the NAACP said there’s no reason why multiple police vehicles would need to respond to such a “nonsensical call,” as happened last week.

“We are looking into this incident,” the local NAACP branch said in a press release. “We spoke with the citizen who recorded the video and the Acting Chief of Police. Additionally, we have shared the public video with selected officials of the Arlington County Board, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, three elected leaders of the Virginia General Assembly representing Arlington County, and the County Manager.”

“We have also issued a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for all documents and police recordings related to this incident,” the organization added.

Additionally, NAACP Branch President Julius Spain, Sr. and First Vice President Kent Carter issued a statement about the incident, saying that “it is a time to stop dispatching police to calls like these.”

“It is not a crime to be Black,” Spain and Carter say. The full statement is below.
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