Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Free Cinco de Mayo Rides — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2021 Cinco de Mayo SoberRide program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 pm this Wednesday, May 5, 2021 (Cinco de Mayo) and operate until 2:00 am on Thursday, May 6, 2021 as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk holiday.” [Press Release]

Extra ACPD Traffic Enforcement — From the Arlington County Police Department: “As part of the regional Council of Governments StreetSmart campaign, officers conducted high visibility speed enforcement along Lee Highway today. With warmer weather upon us, there is increased pedestrian and cyclist traffic in the County. Remember to slow down, obey posted speed limits and remain alert for other travelers.” [Facebook]

School Board Hopefuls On Math Controversy — “With the Virginia Department of Education under attack – fairly or unfairly – for what critics say is an attempt to dumb down math instruction across the commonwealth, the two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board gave state officials neither a rousing endorsement nor a ringing denunciation in a recent forum.” [Sun Gazette]

Critic Praises Local Restaurant — “Every once in a while, a restaurant comes along that checks off so many boxes, you wonder if it had taken a poll of diners’ wishes. Right now, that restaurant is a place in Arlington that combines a warm welcome with good food in a spot that locals might recall as a former paint store or a chocolate factory… Ruthie’s All-Day.” [Washington Post]

Covid Concerns for Local With India Ties — “Singh, a 28-year-old consultant, walked her dog in her Arlington, Va., neighborhood where people lined up to get inside a rooftop tiki bar and a group pedaled by on a party bike, drinking beer. She returned to her apartment and stayed up until 2 a.m. scouring Instagram for phone numbers of Indians who might have oxygen and getting no replies to a flurry of messages. Singh is among thousands of Americans struggling to help Indian relatives survive a catastrophic coronavirus surge that has caused the health care system to collapse.” [New India Times]

Nearby: Fairfax Co. Lowers Tax Rate — “Fairfax County adopted a budget Tuesday that lowers the residential property tax rate… the tax rate drops by a penny to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Prince William County officials also recently shaved a penny from their tax rate, now at $1.115 per $100 of assessed value. Loudoun County lowered its rate by 5 .5 cents, to $0.98 per $100 of assessed value, while Arlington County froze its rate at $1.013 per $100 of assessed value.” [Washington Post]

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Rep. Don Beyer announced yesterday that he has requested federal funds to go toward a health initiative and two parks projects in Arlington County.

If approved, the funding would fund repaving a section of the Bluemont Junction Trail and repairing replacing a key pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. It would also purchase vehicles needed by a mobile response team that would respond to behavioral health crises rather than police.

The money would come from the Fiscal Year 2022 Community Project Funding Program, which provides targeted funding for local projects nationwide. Representatives were able to submit requests for up to 10 projects but there is no guarantee of approval. Beyer also requested money for projects benefiting the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County.

“The infrastructure requests would enhance pedestrian routes in the region, support [electric vehicles] and other environmentally friendly initiatives, fund mental health resources, and support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras for the Alexandria Police Department,” Beyer said. “These are worthy projects deserving of federal funding.”

For the Bluemont Junction Trail, Beyer requested $325,000 to repave a segment of the trail and adjacent connector paths, improvements that the county identified during a 2018 trails assessment.

“The current trail pavement and connectors are in deteriorating condition with limited or poor access from adjacent and intersecting streets,” the announcement said.

Separately, the county is using capital funding to improve where the trail intersects with N. Kensington Street, N. Emerson Street and N. Buchanan Street.

Beyer requested $800,000 to replace the Glencarlyn Park pedestrian bridge lost during the July 2019 flash flooding. So far, only the Lubber Run Park bridge has been replaced, although the Glencarlyn bridge was also included in Arlington’s adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan.

“Of the six pedestrian bridges lost in the flooding event, the most important one for connectivity is the bridge in Glencarlyn Park,” Beyer’s announcement said. “This bridge connects the main park area, dog exercise area and neighboring communities to the west of Four Mile Run to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The bridge connection is important as both a commuter connection and for recreation and leisure walks on the W&OD Trail.”

On behalf of Arlington County, Beyer requested $390,000 to purchase two medically-equipped vehicles to be used by a team tasked with responding to mental health crises. Arlington’s Police Practices Group recently recommended that the county transition from dispatching police to such incidents to sending out a specialized mobile crisis response unit.

“The requested funds will support a ‘Help not Handcuffs’ approach to ensure that persons in behavioral health crises receive the most appropriate assistance needed when and where they need it,” Beyer’s announcement said. “A behavioral health response vs. a law enforcement response will increase community-based mental health care, decrease emergency department use, reduce inpatient admissions, divert from the criminal justice system and supports racial justice.”

In its lengthy report, the Police Practices Group also recommended procuring specialized vehicles or retrofitting existing ones for the mobile crisis unit.

The vehicles would supplement $574,000 in the county’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget to support an enhanced mental health crisis response program in the Department of Human Services. That allocation would fund a physician’s assistant, nurse, clinician, transport van and operating supplies.

Photo via Flickr pool user Tom Mockler

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(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) Arlington County police were able to defuse a tense situation in which a driver pulled over for a traffic stop allegedly had a gun pointed at officers.

The incident happened Friday afternoon along Washington Blvd at I-395.

“At approximately 3:11 p.m. on April 30, officers conducted a traffic stop after observing the driver operating erratically, shifting lanes and [braking] repeatedly before stopping abruptly on the shoulder of the roadway,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer observed a firearm on the driver’s lap which was halfway out of the holster and facing towards him.”

“The officer gave the driver commands and took possession of the firearm,” the crime report continues. “The driver had a suspended license and the vehicle was displaying improper tags.”

The crime report does not indicate whether the gun was intentionally pointed at police.

A 26-year-old Alexandria man was arrested and charged with Brandishing a Firearm and Assault on Law Enforcement Officer, according to ACPD. Traffic tickets were also issued for Suspended License, Improper Registration, Failure to Maintain Lane, Following too Closely and Failure to Wear Seatbelt, police said.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) The “all clear” has been given after a bomb threat in the Crystal City/Potomac Yard area.

The investigation took place on the 3500 block of S. Clark Street, a block that includes the U.S. headquarters of grocery chain Lidl and an LA Fitness location.

An Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman declined to specify who or what received the bomb threat, but did note that several nearby businesses were evacuated during the investigation.

Arlington County firefighters and other law enforcement agencies are assisting with the investigation, said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. Assistance was provided by the explosives detection K-9 units of Virginia State Police, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, Amtrak, and and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, she said.

The large police presence and road closures prompted delays for some buses, Metro said earlier via social media.

Photo courtesy anonymous

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Morning Notes

Procession for Long-Time ACPD Chief — “[On Friday] ACPD and our regional law enforcement partners paid final respects to retired Chief of Police William K. ‘Smokey’ Stover. He passed away from natural causes on Friday, April 17, 2020 at 89 years old. His service was held today at” Arlington National Cemetery.” [Twitter, Legacy]

No Local GOP Candidates So Far — “As of yet, Arlington Republicans have not lined up candidates for County Board and School Board. The monthly meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee came and went April 28 with no candidate announcements for the two local races, and no inklings that there may be possibilities in the pipeline.” [InsideNova]

Pentagon Says No to Motorcycle Rally — “The Department of Defense denied a parking permit to the American Veterans organization to use the Pentagon as a rallying point for the Memorial Day ‘Rolling to Remember’ ride, ending a 32-year tradition… [The Pentagon said] it would reconsider the request once COVID-19 conditions change.” [Washington Examiner]

Tables, Chairs Coming Back to Penrose Square — “Penrose Square plaza tables and chairs coming back soon. Make your outdoor lunch plans for next week accordingly.” [Twitter, Twitter]

History of Arlington’s Rail Lines — “By 1924, the larger Washington-Virginia Railway had 64 trolley stops in Arlington alone, on four branches. Lines crossed the Potomac on the old Aqueduct Bridge and on another branch on what became the 14th Street bridges, taking passengers through ‘Arlington Junction’ in what became Crystal City and all the way to Mount Vernon.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Section of 9/11 Trail in PA — “Somerset County and other officials cut the ribbon Friday in Garrett for the first 1.5 miles of the newly developed, off-road section of the 1,300-mile-long 9/11 National Memorial Trail. Currently, the recreational trail is a patchwork of about 55% off-road trails and 45% roads connecting the three 9/11 memorial sites in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

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A 19-year-old Arlington man has died after a crash earlier this month.

The crash happened around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 17. Police say Eduardo Mendez-Aranda was driving a pickup truck westbound on Washington Blvd, in the direction of Clarendon, when a tractor trailer slowed down just before the Route 50 overpass.

Mendez-Aranda rear-ended the tractor trailer and was pinned in the vehicle. Firefighters extricated him from the pickup and rushed him to a local hospital with critical injuries; he succumbed to those injuries yesterday, ten days after the crash.

Arlington County police are investigating the now-fatal crash.

“This crash remains under investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective L. Lugasi at 703-228-4054 or [email protected],” ACPD said in a press release this afternoon. “To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Image via Google Maps

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz aims to have a new police chief in place within the next month or two.

And this police chief, he said during a meeting last week, must appreciate Arlington’s diversity and understand how different communities react to police presence.

“Our police officers meet with residents, visitors and those who work here during the most stressful moments of their lives,” he said. “I’m looking for a chief who understands our community gains strength from its diversity.”

The police department has been without a permanent leader since September, when the former police chief M. Jay Farr retired, citing souring relations with the County Board as one of his reasons for leaving. Acting chief Andy Penn is leading in his place.

Meantime, Schwartz has been conducting a nationwide search while a consultant, Leroy Thompson, gathered input from police officers and community members.

The consultant found that police officers want a chief who will boost morale, support officers, regain their trust and help improve race relations, Thompson said. They are wary of the county overreacting to a national narrative that “wasn’t severe in Arlington,” he said.

The community, meanwhile, wants a chief who will build relationships in the community and with other county departments to address peoples’ needs, Thompson said. They envision an approach to law enforcement that focuses on connecting people with needed services, instead of the current strategy centered on punishment, which they say is a holdover from the war on drugs, he said.

One area of agreement? Thompson said the community and police officers stressed the new hire should not seem like a political appointment.

Amid a national dialogue on race and policing, Arlington has taken several steps to respond to calls for police reform, including recently budgeting for full time police auditor/monitor position and a civilian mental health crisis response team.

Schwartz said a consultant is also reviewing ACPD’s policies guiding use of force, body-worn cameras, and the collection of data, as well as how successful the department is at recruiting and retaining officers. The report was set to come last fall but has yet to arrive, he said.

This past winter, the county implemented a body-worn camera program, and in January, Penn signed onto the Northern Virginia Regional Critical Incident Response Team, which allows for an independent investigation into serious uses of police force.

In February, a “Police Practices Group” convened last summer presented myriad ways to change how the police respond to behavioral health crises and enforce traffic violations. Schwartz said he expects the new chief to carry out these recommendations.

“It’s my firm expectation — I have made it clear to anyone who has interviewed for the position — that they will follow all the recommendations I support from the PPG and he/she is free to challenge me on those I didn’t recommend,” Schwartz said. “I expect whoever the next police chief is will be walking around with a tired, tattered copy of this document in his or her front pocket.”

A press release from Farr’s retirement timed the hiring to come after the PPG wrapped up its work. One of its recommendations is the creation of a civilian review board.

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A juvenile is facing numerous charges and police are looking for two other suspects after yet another business burglary in Dominion Hills.

Police have been more proactive in the wake of dozens of break-ins and thefts at local businesses. The arrest was made early Saturday morning after patrols were stepped up in response to reports of burglaries in a nearby jurisdiction, according to Arlington County police.

Officers allegedly caught three burglars in the act shortly after 3 a.m. while removing a cash register from a business on the hard-hit 6000 block of Wilson Blvd, scene of at least four prior burglaries. They had allegedly arrived at the location in a stolen vehicle and broken the front window of a business.

All of the suspects fled on foot, but Arlington and Fairfax officers were able to take one into custody in the Seven Corners area, with the assistance of the FCPD helicopter.

Police are continuing to investigate the burglaries and are working to determine the identity of the other two suspects. Previously, an Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman told ARLnow that the business burglaries are being investigated as being potentially connected.

“Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage.

More from a police press release:

A juvenile suspect is facing charges of Burglary, Possession of Stolen Auto, Conspiracy to Commit Felonies (2x), Felony Destruction of Property, Possession of Stolen Property, Petit Larceny, and Underage Possession of Tobacco following a commercial burglary in the Dominion Hills neighborhood on the morning of Saturday, April 24, 2021. The arrest follows an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses both in Arlington County and the region. Detectives continue to investigate the juvenile suspect’s role in these burglaries and additional charges are anticipated.

At approximately 3:13 a.m. on April 24, officers were conducting extra checks at commercial establishments after receiving the report of a business being burglarized in a neighboring jurisdiction. Upon entering the 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard, officers observed a vehicle, which was later determined to be stolen, backed in front of a business with both front doors open. As the officers approached the business, they observed that the front window had been broken out. Three suspects then exited the business through the broken window carrying stolen merchandise and a cash register. Officers gave lawful commands to stop but the three suspects dropped the stolen items and fled the scene on foot.

A perimeter was established, and the area was searched with the assistance of the Fairfax County Police Department helicopter. At approximately 3:42 a.m., an officer observed an individual running across Route 50 matching the description of one of the burglary suspects. Fairfax County helicopter located the suspect in the 6100 block of Brook Drive where he was taken into custody without incident by Arlington and Fairfax County officers. The two additional suspects were not located and the investigation into their identities is ongoing.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information or video surveillance that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact Detective B. Kooharian at 703-228-4049 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Jail to Reopen to Visitors — “Sheriff Beth Arthur has announced a modified reopening of in-person visitation for those remanded to the Arlington County Detention Center. Relatives and friends will regain the ability to visit loved ones in person beginning May 1. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person visitation at the Arlington County Detention Center has been suspended for more than a year.” [Arlington County]

HQ2 to Feature Small Local Businesses — “Amazon.com Inc. plans to prioritize leasing retail space at its D.C.-area offices to businesses owned by people from historically underrepresented groups, an official with the e-commerce and cloud computing giant said recently. ‘We’re still in the process of curating and finding those retailers, but our goal is small, local, minority- and women- owned,’ Joe Chapman, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, said of the company’s retail leasing strategy during a meeting of Arlington’s long range planning committee April 19.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Police Chief Pick Coming Soon — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz says he hopes to have a permanent head of the Arlington County Police Department announced sooner rather than later. ‘My goal was to have a police chief in place this spring. That’s still my goal,’ Schwartz told County Board members on April 20.” [Sun Gazette]

Marymount Vaccinates Thousands — “Nearly 1,200 students, faculty, staff and members of the community received their first Pfizer COVID vaccinations on April 21 at Marymount University, part of a collaborative effort between the university and state and local officials. The university transformed one of its gyms into a mass-inoculation site, and turnout exceeded expectations.” [Sun Gazette]

Rotary Club Honors ‘Educator of the Year’ — “The Arlington Rotary Club has honored school counselor Laurie Dodson as Arlington Key Elementary School’s ‘Educator of the Year’ and presented two Arlington high school students scholarships totaling $18,000 at the club’s annual education awards event.” [Press Release]

Pink Moon Dazzles — “We’re entering the heart of spring and, in most temperate climates, buds are bursting and decorating the newly lush landscape. Fresh arrangements of pink flowers are emerging, and the April moon, which will become full Monday night, is named in their honor. The ‘Pink Moon’ will be officially full, or 100 percent illuminated, at 11:31 p.m. Eastern time Monday. It will be bold and bright but won’t actually appear pink in the night sky.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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A 22-year-old man was arrested last night and charged with attacking and strangling a woman as she walked through a neighborhood near Courthouse.

The attack happened along a path on the 1800 block of N. Uhle Street, in the Colonial Village community, at around 7 p.m.

Police say the man put a cord around the woman’s neck, pulled her to the ground and then tried to strangle her with his hands. He ran off “when two witnesses arrived in the area,” according to police.

Detective work led police to a suspect who was subsequently arrested on the 1500 block of N. Pierce Street, in the Rosslyn area.

“Following the April 13 incident, detectives launched a thorough investigation which included canvassing for information, reviewing crime scene evidence, interviewing witnesses and following up on investigative leads,” Arlington County police said in a press release. “As a result, detectives identified [Marquis] Holmes as a suspect and sought a warrant for Strangulation.”

“On the evening of April 21, officers responding to the report of a suspicious person in the 1500 block of N. Pierce Street located the suspect and took him into custody without incident on the outstanding warrant,” the press release continued. “Following an interview with detectives, an additional charge of Abduction with Intent to Defile was obtained.”

The abduction charge implies that police believe the suspect intended to have some sort of forcible sexual contact with the victim.

The police department is asking anyone with additional information about the case to contact them.

“This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected],” police said.

Photo courtesy ACPD

The Arlington County Board, along with other local officials, applauded a historic guilty verdict handed down by a Minnesota jury today.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, a crime that was caught on camera and which led to a summer of protests and a racial reckoning — in Arlington, across the U.S. and around the world. The verdict was announced this afternoon.

The Board said in a statement that it “hopes that today’s verdict is a step forward in dismantling the systemic racism that pervades life throughout our nation.”

The Arlington County Board commends the Minneapolis jurors for returning a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial and joins others around the nation in relief. The shocking video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Chauvin while other officers stood by and failed to intervene, showed the disregard for and devaluing of Black lives that is too common. The Board hopes that today’s verdict is a step forward in dismantling the systemic racism that pervades life throughout our nation.

We know that Arlington is not exempt from this racism and its impacts, and we renew our commitment to addressing those inequities and creating a culture of caring and respect. We are proud to live in a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that champions human and civil rights, and while we know there is more work to be done, we are inspired by the efforts of Arlington community members and leaders who strengthen us as a whole.

Arlington’s congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), said the verdict “confirms what we saw.”

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán said in letter to families that counseling will be available “to help students deal with their feelings” in the wake of the verdict.

“While this verdict provides some closure, there are still many feelings that need to be processed and changes that need to be made to combat systemic racism in our justice system,” Durán said.

Dear APS Students, Families and Staff,

The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was charged for the murder of George Floyd, was announced this afternoon, and he was found guilty. We understand how difficult the last few months have been for many of our students and staff, and while this verdict provides some closure, there are still many feelings that need to be processed and changes that need to be made to combat systemic racism in our justice system. We acknowledge the impact this verdict will have on social justice but know there is work that still needs to be done to achieve a society where we are all treated fairly and equitably.

The racism and violence that have been highlighted in these recent tragic events may be widely discussed this week at school. Teachers will give students the opportunity to process their feelings and how this feels to them personally, as appropriate, and as they are comfortable. […]

I want to take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to anti-racism and social justice, and to our continued work in schools and in our community.

Arlington police made some preparations in the event of a verdict that prompted civil unrest, including sending parking meter enforcement aides home early and moving some parked police vehicles, ARLnow hears.

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