Press Club
Scene of a fatal crash involving a school bus and a motorcyclist in Green Valley (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Four people died in crashes in Arlington during 2021, the first year of the county’s initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries.

That’s in addition to 61 severe crashes, according to the first annual report evaluating the transportation safety initiative Vision Zero.

Arlington County is measuring the effectiveness of its five-year action plan by tracking the severity of crashes and factors involved, such as speed, alcohol and whether a pedestrian or bicyclist were injured.

This month marks the kickoff of the initiative’s second year, which will feature awareness campaigns around behaviors that lead to serious crashes. The campaign will run through December and concentrate on different behaviors each month, starting with bike awareness.

The overall number of crashes in 2021 — 1,785 — decreased by about 30% compared to previous years, but that was attributable to lower traffic levels compared to pre-pandemic years, according to the report.

All four fatal crashes occurred at intersections, and did not involve a pedestrian or bicyclist. In 2020, there were four fatal crashes and 50 that caused severe injury, according to the county’s crash analysis dashboard.

The report noted the 174 alcohol-related and 487 speed-related crashes in 2021 marked a slight uptick. Speed was a factor in one of the fatal crashes.

Lessons learned

Many of the more than 90 action items the county lists in the framework have been checked off. Arlington has completed or started 36 small-scale safety projects, finished an analysis of 69 crash hot spots, and facilitated 55 transportation safety classes and events, among other tasks.

A graphic shows some of the county’s accomplishments in the first year of the Vision Zero plan (via Arlington County)

Some of the lessons learned in year one include a need to amp up community engagement, and decrease the frequency of crash hot spot analyses from once a year to every two years.

Two walkability routes that were piloted saw opposite outcomes. A pilot on Lorcom Lane in residential North Arlington was extended and county staff are looking to fund a permanent sidewalk there in the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan.

The report noted the Lorcom Lane path “showed high usage, positive community feedback, and observed benefits from separating cars, bikes, and pedestrians.”

But the county halted a similar effort — temporary bollards and wheel stops on S. Carlin Springs Road — months after placement. Arlington Public Schools, Arlington police and community members raised concerns with the pilot after observing “erratic driving around the barriers.”

That area of S. Carlin Springs Road has narrow sidewalks, little or no pedestrian buffer and a history of crashes. The goal of the pilot was to create a safer walking path for students at Campbell Elementary School, Carlin Springs Elementary School and Kenmore Middle School.

County staff will continue to assess options for “enhancing sidewalks and access along the corridor, including connectivity options when the County redevelops the Virginia Hospital Center site,” according to the report.

Several other efforts to increase safety, particularly around schools, advanced in the first year of Vision Zero. The installation of 20 mph school slow zones around 13 schools in early 2022 is under evaluation and could be extended to all schools in the county.

In January, the County Board approved speed cameras in school and work zones, heralding them as a step toward the Vision Zero goal.

In the upcoming year, the report says, there are two full-time employees confirmed to work on Vision Zero and some studies will be completed, such as the evaluation of roadways that have speed limits above 30 mph.

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A police traffic stop in Rosslyn in 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County police are kicking off the annual spring Street Smart safety campaign tomorrow with targeted traffic enforcement in Rosslyn.

The region-wide road safety campaign “focuses on educating drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists about traffic laws and how to safely share our roadway.” The campaign includes the personal testimonials of crash survivors, including two from Arlington.

The campaign will kick off tomorrow with a media event in Rosslyn, followed by “high-visibility traffic enforcement” at two nearby intersections: Fort Myer Drive at Fairfax Drive and Langston Blvd at N. Moore Street.

The enforcement will start after the 10:30 a.m. media event concludes.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

As part of the Arlington County Police Department’s key initiative of transportation safety, the department is again participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Spring Street Smart campaign. This region-wide public safety campaign, which runs until May 22, 2022, focuses on educating drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists about traffic laws and how to safely share our roadways. Through a two-pronged approach of education and enforcement, the campaign aims to reduce the number of traffic related crashes and injuries on our roadways by identifying and changing unsafe behavior patterns among travelers.

Street Smart Campaign Kickoff

The Spring 2022 Street Smart Campaign Kickoff media event will take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 10:30 a.m. at 1560 Wilson Boulevard. Directly following the event, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement at the following locations in Rosslyn:

  • Fort Myer Dr. at Fairfax Dr.
  • Langston Blvd. at N. Moore St.

Transportation Safety Tips for Travelers

Whether you travel on foot, two wheels or four wheels, share our roadways safely be being a PAL – predictable, alert and lawful.

If you’re driving . . .

  • Slow down, drive the speed limit and obey all posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Be careful when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • When turning, yield to people walking and biking.
  • Look for bicyclists before opening your door.
  • Allow at least 3 feet when passing bikes.
  • Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving.

If you’re walking . . .

  • Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they’re available.
  • Use the pushbuttons and wait for the walk signal to cross the street.
  • Watch for turning vehicles.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather with light-colored clothing, reflective gear and/or lights.

If you’re biking . . .

  • Obey posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Communicate your intentions by using hand signals.
  • Wear a helmet (required for riders 14 years of age or younger, and recommended for all).
  • Use headlights and taillights, especially when riding between sunset and sunrise.
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Arlington County will be studying a two-mile stretch of S. George Mason Drive, from Route 50 to the border with Fairfax County, to identify potential transportation improvements.

The study is happening now because the road is a solid candidate for grants that have applications due in the winter. But before they can apply, county staff need to examine current conditions and hear from locals about their biggest safety concerns, according to Leah Gerber, an county transportation planner.

She said one reason staff are optimistic about grant funding is because the upgrades would benefit residents of census tracts with high concentrations of ethnic minorities, or “equity emphasis areas,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Over the next two months, staff will analyze data such as transit ridership and traffic counts and develop concept plans for three segments of the road:

  • North Segment — Arlington Blvd to Columbia Pike
  • Middle Segment — Columbia Pike to S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • South Segment — S. Four Mile Run Drive to county line

Staff will also develop 15% designs for the Columbia Pike-county line segment.

“The southern portion we feel will really be eligible for grant funding,” said Valerie Mosley, the bureau chief of Transportation Planning and Capital Project Management for Arlingtons Department of Environmental Services.

The study is slated for commission and County Board review this fall, in time for applications to go out this winter.

“We’re working on a fairly truncated timetable for this study and we wanted to start by asking about your experience,” public engagement coordinator Nate Graham said during a community kick-off meeting last week. “That feedback from the community will help us, along with data analysis, plan a study and identify solutions that can resolve those issues.”

A survey, open through Sunday, May 1, asks respondents how safe they feel walking, scooting, driving and biking the road. People can signal their preferred upgrades from options such as protected bike lanes, sheltered bus stops, bus-only lanes and widened sidewalks. Using an interactive map, respondents can pinpoint specific locations they say need attention.

The segments of S. George Mason Drive being studied by the county (via Arlington County)

What staff members know so far is that some residents have long requested safer pedestrian crossings through improvements such as flashing beacons. One oft-cited intersection is with 6th Street S., near the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where shrubbery and trees make it hard to see oncoming cars.

Some cyclists, meanwhile, have pointed out inconsistent bike infrastructure, with lanes that start and stop at random. Other residents say more parking enforcement is needed between Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive, where large commercial trucks park despite being too wide for the parking spaces available.

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After a year of work surveying residents, two civic associations are going to the county with a request: to make a stretch of N. Carlin Springs Road safer for pedestrians.

Drivers routinely go 40 mph on the 30 mph road, which is used by kids walking to Kenmore Middle School, says Christopher George, who spearheaded the community initiative. People have to cross four lanes of traffic without marked crossings to get to two heavily used bus stations, which lack ramps to make them accessible to people with disabilities.

“It’s very dangerous for people who take the bus to cross the street,” he tells ARLnow. “Kenmore students are pretty much told not to cross the street because it’s so dangerous.”

Members of the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) and the Arlington Forest Citizens Association (AFCA) want slower speeds, safer crossings and greater enforcement of speeding and street crossing laws on N. Carlin Springs Road between N. Edison Street and N. Kensington Street.

Their asks come after more than a year spent surveying neighborhoods, conducting site walks and drafting a report.

Residents say they want to see:

  • Marked crossings accessible to people with disabilities
  • Medians with pedestrian refuges, curb extensions and streetscaping at the intersections of 2nd Street N./N. Jefferson Street and at N. Greenbrier Street
  • A speed limit on N. Carlin Springs Road of 25 mph, not 30 mph
  • Dark sky-compliant Carlyle-style street lights

Members sent a joint resolution to the County Board and County Manager Mark Schwartz requesting that they pilot these changes before fully implementing them.

They said these changes could qualify as upgrades for the county’s annual repaving efforts, its Vision Zero program to reduce pedestrian deaths and serious injuries or the county’s Neighborhood Conservation program, designed to let residents identify and plan projects in their neighborhoods.

The two intersections mentioned by the association members are “in the queue to look into for evaluation,” says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

And a lower speed limit could be coming to the street. This year, DES is studying 30 mph roads ­­– including N. Carlin Springs Road ­­­– to determine which “could be a good fit for either a speed limit reduction or other measures such as signage,” she said.

DES expects the study will be done before the end of the year.

The two neighborhoods have worked together before to seek funding for pedestrian safety improvements on N. Carlin Springs Road, George said.

Arlington recently made intersection safety upgrades on N. Carlin Springs at N. Edison and N. Wakefield streets that included curb extensions, rapid flashing beacons, accessibility improvements, widened medians and other improvements, Pors said.

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Screenshot from video of a fight at a cafeteria in Arlington Public Schools (courtesy anonymous)

Over the last four days, fights involving kids and weapons broke out near Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools, while Wakefield High School had multiple trash cans set on fire.

Those are the most recent incidents in what some parents — mostly to middle schoolers — say is a rash of fights, threats of violence and other concerning behaviors happening in the public school system.

Earlier this month, for example, a mother told the School Board her daughter at Gunston Middle School was attacked by other students.

“My daughter’s eye is messed up,” Shana Robertson told the Arlington School Board on March 10. “She was jumped by two boys and two girls, and nothing has been done.”

A parent, Shayna Robertson, speaks out about unsafe conditions in Arlington Public Schools (via APS)

ARLnow spoke to multiple parents who say these issues are happening across the school system. We also reviewed several videos of brawls on school grounds, or near them, recorded by students this year.

Arlington Public Schools confirms to ARLnow that the school system has, in fact, noticed an increase in the number of reported fights and incidents this school year.

“This rise in concerning behaviors follows the national trend that is not unique to Arlington, as students re-acclimate to being back in school and face increased stress and anxiety, as well as other mental health and social-emotional challenges due to COVID and the trauma students experienced as a result,” APS spokesman Andrew Robinson said.

The trend has prompted some parents to call for more disciplinary actions for students and a renewed conversation about whether to reinstall Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officers, who were removed over the summer out of concern for racial disparities in juvenile arrests.

Opinions on reinstalling SROs are mixed. Some say this would help keep students in line and some say they may help — but they will not address the root cause. Others say SROs would not only fail to address the root cause, but they would also needlessly drive up the number of arrests.

“This is happening across the country, even at schools with police officers,” says Symone Walker, a member of the Arlington branch of the NAACP’s education committee and a former ARLnow columnist. “You really have to start addressing the emotional needs, the physical needs, the academic needs. Of course, there’s stuff going on at homes where families are stressed. Parents are angry and the kids are soaking it all up — it’s a much deeper problem.”

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A 50-year-old bridge over I-395 near Shirlington is slated for upgrades next year.

Locals can learn more about the planned bridge work next Tuesday evening during a virtual meeting hosted by VDOT, which is managing the project.

The bridge connects the southbound I-395 collector-distributor lanes and southbound Shirlington Road to N. Quaker Lane at the I-395 Exit 6 interchange.

First constructed in 1973, the bridge needs upgrades to improve safety for drivers and to extend its usable lifespan, says VDOT. Today, the bridge is crossed by about 7,400 vehicles daily.

The bridge over I-395 in Shirlington slated for repairs (via Google Maps) 

According to the project webpage, VDOT will:

  • Resurface the concrete bridge deck and closing deck joints
  • Repair concrete piers and abutments
  • Repair and repaint steel beams
  • Add protective concrete barriers adjacent to piers
  • Replace bearings
  • Upgrade guardrails adjacent to the bridge

The $4.3-million project will be financed with federal and state funding, including State of Good Repair funds used for bridges.

Next Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. VDOT staff will make a short presentation and then answer questions from the public for an hour. Project materials, which are not yet available, will be posted on the meeting webpage before the meeting starts, the department says.

Through Friday, March 25, VDOT will accept feedback via email and U.S. mail, addressed to Vicente Valeza, Jr., P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

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Arlington: a highly educated and affluent riverfront county looking over D.C. Some say it has a kindred spirit in Hoboken, New Jersey, described as a “vibrant, walkable” city with waterfront views of New York City.

What makes Hoboken walkable seems to also make it safe for pedestrians. For the last four years, the city has not logged a single pedestrian death.

The trend drew the praise of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department released a national plan in January to reduce and eventually eliminate thousands of road deaths.

Arlington, like Hoboken, has adopted a Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic-related serious injuries and deaths by 2030. The county saw seven deaths between 2018 and 2020, and — depending on the exact location on the D.C./Arlington dividing line — one death in 2021. So what can Arlington and its 26 square miles (population ~237k) learn from the “mile-square city” (population ~53k)?

Arlington crash data from 2013 through November 2021. Crashes involving vehicles are left and crashes involving pedestrians are right (via Arlington County)

Hoboken transportation planner Gregory Francese credits the city’s success to Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s top-down, interdepartmental approach that involves residents. He says Hoboken regularly tackles challenging roads with temporary fixes that are made permanent later.

But the city wasn’t always pedestrian-friendly, he said. Cars could park up to crosswalks, which were faded, and intersections were in poor condition.

Those conditions began to change through repavement projects under the last mayor, and the work accelerated under Mayor Ravinder Bhalla when he established a Vision Zero task force, made of department leaders and residents.

“A big part of Vision Zero is removing the silos between transportation, enforcement [and other departments],” Francese said. “It takes someone who can remove those silos to unite people around Vision Zero.”

Planners test out quick, cheap and temporary solutions to find creative solutions to Hoboken’s main challenge: fitting safety improvements on narrow roads while balancing driving and parking needs. He said this approach translates well to bigger cities.

Like Hoboken, Arlington’s Vision Zero initiative has improved county government-wide cooperation, project manager Christine Baker said.

“The Vision Zero program has truly allowed County staff to place a spotlight on safety for all transportation-related projects and programs,” said Baker. “Our staff are coordinating interdepartmentally in a way that we have not in the past, which has streamlined the ability to get safety improvements on the ground.”

County staff map crash locations and respond with quick-build or capital improvement projects and pilot programs. The Arlington County Board, meanwhile, is setting policy. It has voted to further limit speeds and install speed cameras around schools and road construction areas, as a change in state law recently allowed.

Local transit and safety advocates say the county is on the right track but can still take notes from Hoboken.

Bicycling enthusiast Gillian Burgess picked up on Bhalla’s top-down approach. She also said Hoboken has more concrete actions and deadlines that are easier for the public to find and read, and the city’s emphasis on encouraging drivers to be more careful is front and center.

“When you have good leadership and concrete plans, you get something done,” she said. “We need the County Manager and the County Manager’s office and leadership at the Department of Environmental Services to take more ownership.”

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New cameras enforcing speeding could be coming to Arlington school and work zones by the end of this year.

The County Board voted on Saturday to have speed cameras installed throughout the county near schools and on public roads where construction work is ongoing.

Board members heralded the cameras as a tool for protecting children, lowering severe and fatal crashes — an initiative known as Vision Zero — as well as reducing race- and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement and providing relief to overworked Arlington County Police Department officers.

“The idea that we can keep our community safer, address this behavior and then reduce demand on the police and reduce interactions with police is just a really heartening step for us to take,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

The vote follows the passage of state law in 2020 allowing municipalities to install speed cameras.

It also coincides with an anecdotal increase in speeding around schools, according to Board member Libby Garvey (although speed-related crashes in school zones have remained relatively constant at 10 per year, per county data).

“Maybe there hasn’t been a huge increase in crashes, but there has been an increase in bad behavior, and that’s pretty worrisome,” she said. “This is about children and safety.”

Last fall, Arlington County took steps to make school zones safer by lowering speed limits to 20 mph around 13 schools.

County staff are reviewing best practices, crash data, equity concerns and other local factors to determine where to place the cameras, Vision Zero project manager Christine Baker told the County Board. School zones encompass a 600-foot radius of a school crosswalk or school access point.

“We plan to be strategic and intentional about where we place speed cameras to ensure they’re effective in reducing speeds and promoting fairness and equity as well,” Baker said.

Board members said this should reassure motorists who also travel in D.C. and feel that camera locations are chosen to “trap” them and generate revenue rather than correct behavior.

Here’s what drivers need to know.

When will the program start? 

Locations could be selected by this fall and the program could start as soon as cameras and warning signs are installed, either this winter or in early 2023.

Who will get citations? 

Anyone going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Every citation will be issued after a sworn ACPD officer reviews the footage.

How much will citations cost? What are the other penalties? 

Citations for the first 30 days of the program will be warnings that carry no fines. After that, they are $50 a fine, the same as red light-camera violations. The fines will go into the general fund.

Violations will be civil, not criminal, meaning they won’t add points to a person’s driver’s license or be considered for insurance purposes. Drivers can contest the violations.

How much will the program cost? 

The program will cost $600,000 a year, and for now, ACPD anticipates the fines will offset the program’s costs, Capt. Albert Kim told the County Board. The costs include the purchase of 10 cameras, which can be moved, camera installation, program operations, ticketing and the salary of the full-time police employee reviewing the footage.

Where can I learn more about speed cameras?

Information in multiple languages will be available on the county website. The county will increase communication about the program through community email lists and the communication channels of APS and ACPD as the start date draws closer.

How will my data be protected? 

State law requires Arlington police and the third-party vendor to delete footage and shred physical documents with personally identifiable information within a certain time frame: 60 days of reviewing the footage and determining the driver wasn’t speeding, or within 60 days of a driver paying a fine, Kim said.

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Arlington County could start cracking down on speeding near schools and highway work zones with newly-allowed speed cameras.

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to set a public hearing for its Jan. 22 meeting on the question of whether to install speed cameras.

Currently, Arlington County only has cameras that capture red-light violations, but in 2020 the Virginia General Assembly allowed localities to install radar-based speed detectors around school crossing zones and highway work zones. Now, the county is poised to consider adding 10 movable cameras to these zones.

Cameras will improve street safety and make enforcement more equitable while reducing public interactions with police officers, according to a county staff report.

“Automated speed enforcement will significantly advance Arlington County’s transportation safety and equity initiatives as stated through the Vision Zero Action Plan and Police Practices Group Recommendations and leads to considerable reductions in speeding, crashes resulting in injuries, and total crashes — thereby making roadways safer for all users,” the report said.

“Automated speed enforcement also reduces unnecessary interactions between residents and police and further advances confidence in equitable outcomes by reducing or eliminating the possibility of race-and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement,” the report continues.

State code requires that localities post signs informing drivers of speed cameras and sets the threshold for enforcement at more than 10 mph over the speed limit. Fines cannot exceed $100, and speeding violations do not add points on a driver’s license nor are they considered for insurance purposes, per the state code.

Arlington is proposing a $50 fine for violations. It would match the current $50 fine for red-light violations captured by red-light cameras and fulfill a recommendation from the county’s Police Practices Group, according to the county report.

The group initially recommended calculating fines based on the speeding driver’s income and fixed expenses, the county report said. Since state law doesn’t currently allow such a sliding scale, the group suggested a lower fine and 30-day grace period after cameras are installed.

Before installing the cameras, Arlington County will focus conduct “a robust educational plan,” per the report.

“This plan will include significant outreach across the County to ensure a broad range of residents with different experiences and backgrounds receive information on placement and implementation,” it said.

An unscientific ARLnow poll this summer found that respondents are divided on traffic enforcement: about one-third of respondents wanted to see more speed cameras, while 45% wanted more red light cameras and just over half did not want more enforcement from either type of camera..

Arlington will hire transportation safety consultants to develop guidelines for placing cameras in school zones, using a $60,000 grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Camera placement can change in response to data on speeding, citations, crashes and transportation volumes.

The police department estimates installing and maintaining 10 cameras, and hiring a full-time employee to manage the speed camera program, will cost about $600,000 a year, the report said. Arlington County expects fines to offset the ongoing costs of the program.

Last year, the County Board asked the state to expand the use of speed cameras beyond school and highway work zones.

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Morning Notes

Hanukkah Safety Reminders — “Happy Hanukkah from the ACFD. During this special time, please remember a few safety tips. 1 – Battery powered candles are a safer choice to open-flame candles. 2 – Never leave lit candles unattended. 3 – Keep lit candles away from items that can easily catch fire.” [Twitter]

Trail Detours Start Tomorrow — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Wednesday – Friday: Expect marked detours along Lucky Run Trail due to maintenance work, weather-permitting.” [Twitter]

Road Closures for 5K Race — “The Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k Run/Walk for Arthritis will be held on Saturday, December 4, 2021. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closure from approximately 6:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. to accommodate the event: S. Joyce Street, between 15th Street S. and Army Navy Drive.” [ACPD]

Drama at Rosslyn-Based Politico — “Politico is known for its wildly popular Playbook newsletter, its vast reporting talent pool, and its success as the most widely recognized Beltway-centric publication. But behind the flashy exterior, billion-dollar sale, and massive draw of their star reporters lies a series of burgeoning newsroom conflicts. From personnel issues, including complaints about internal ‘woke police,’ to a divisive unionization drive, to increasing competition in the profitable D.C. newsletter space, tensions appear to be growing.” [Daily Beast]

Mild Start to December on Tap — “NOAA’s 6-10 [day], 8-14 [day] and 3-4 [week] outlooks all toasty for large parts of the Lower 48. Not a great look for big winter storms or sustained cold although confidence in mild pattern decreases by mid-December.” [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

Spotted This Morning: FlurriesUpdated at 8:50 a.m. — We spotted very light snow falling in North Arlington around 8 a.m. today. The local National Weather Service office says these were the first flakes of the season and more flurries are possible this morning. [Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 49. South wind 6 to 8 mph. Sunrise at 7:07 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow there is a chance of showers after 1 p.m., but otherwise it will be partly sunny, with a high near 50. [Weather.gov]

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Virginia State Police vehicle (photo by John Calhoun/JC Photography)

As its police force shrinks, the Arlington County Police Department is leaning on state police when extra officers are needed to maintain its nightlife detail.

Virginia State Police troopers will be helping Arlington fill staffing holes in the local nightlife team that works with bars and restaurants in Clarendon and Crystal City to keep establishments and patrons safe and to help keep order when things get out of hand.

The number of acting police officers available to staff ACPD’s various divisions has dropped amid retirements, reports of low morale, and attrition to more lucrative and less demanding private-industry jobs. In response, ACPD has turned to VSP troopers who are willing to help out with the nightlife detail, according to the county.

This past weekend the County Board approved a mutual aid agreement between the two forces that codifies compensation for troopers.

The agreement will help keep staffing for the detail steady, not add to it, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

“The overall staffing for the Nightlife detail is remaining the same,” she said via email, adding that ACPD does not disclose the specific number of officers. “The MOU with [VSP] provides ACPD the option of utilizing troopers to fill vacancies in the Nightlife detail, when necessary. The department began exploring additional staffing resources for the Nightlife detail in September 2021 due to a reduction in ACPD’s functional staffing.”

As part of the memorandum, troopers will be reimbursed at an overtime rate for their hours worked as well as for vehicle mileage. The county will also pay a 10% fee to VSP for “administrative and accounting costs associated with the provided services,” the report said.

The detail patrols spots in Clarendon and Crystal City as part of the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), which was founded in 2016 to tackle alcohol-related crimes in Clarendon and has since expanded to Crystal City.

Through ARI — in which police patrol area bars, train employees and meet with businesses — Clarendon’s crime rates have dropped, according to the county. The detail also looks out for misbehaving bar patrons, who can be banned from all establishments that participate in Arlington’s Bar Safe program as a result of public drunkenness or more serious crimes.

Between January and September, there have been 32 Bar Safe violations, according to Arlington police data. Rates peaked in the summer, when bars fully reopened, as did the number of fake IDs. The detail confiscated 572 fake IDs during the same time period.

While many alcohol-related crimes dropped from 2019 to 2020 due to COVID-related business closures, the detail has noticed the nightlife crowd increasing every month since the state reopened, according to a monthly police report.

With that, new safety problems have arisen: last month, there were six reports of spiked drink in Clarendon and Crystal City bars.

The collaboration between ACPD and VSP was not the only agreement that received County Board approval. On Saturday, the Board approved a mutual aid agreement with U.S. Capitol Police after 50 Arlington officers helped secure the U.S. Capitol building during the “Justice for J6” rally this fall.

The rally on Sept. 18. was held in support of those charged after the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a large pro-Trump mob. It was widely reported as a flop that did not draw the expected crowds while still costing government agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The county says both of these mutual aid agreements exemplify ACPD’s commitment to regional partnerships.

“The Police Department is an active member, throughout the region, in providing mutual aid assistance,” a county staff report said. “This effort allows for the appropriate utilization of resources both within and outside of the County. Our commitment to regional partnerships greatly enhances the safety and well-being of the citizenry.”

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