Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board is looking to potentially use armed, private guards for security at county government headquarters in Courthouse.

The guards could help provide security at the building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) generally and during County Board meetings specifically, relieving pressure on the understaffed local police force.

According to an item on this weekend’s County Board meeting agenda:

The County currently stations armed police officers at the Bozman Government Center, as well as armed sheriff’s deputies at County Board meetings. To enhance public safety and security, the County would like the option to use armed private security guards.

The agenda item says that adding private guards would enhance the security at County Board meetings without taking law enforcement officers away from other jobs around Arlington.

The prospect of private security came up in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting at a municipal building.

“After the Virginia Beach shooting in May, 2019, the County Manager hosted a virtual employee town hall meeting to discuss workplace security,” the agenda item said. “[This item] merely expands the choices that the County may make for the provision of that security.”

“Funding for the potential costs of enhanced security in the Bozman Government Center was included in the Adopted FY 2020 Budget,” county staff noted in the report.

File photo

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Arlington Public Schools has implemented a new identification system for all visitors entering schools starting Tuesday, September 3.

Whether picking up a child or visiting a staff member, all first-time visitors — including parents, volunteers, and contractors — must register in the district-wide Visitor Management System (VMS), according to a statement from APS. In order to register, visitors must provide an approved form of identification along with the nature of their visit.

School spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow APS implemented the program “as part of our safety and security enhancements and to streamline visitor management at all schools,” and is fully covered in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Accepted forms of identification include:

  • United States or foreign issued driver’s license
  • United States or foreign issued driver’s license
  • United States or foreign government identification
  • United States or foreign military identification
  • State Department of Motor Vehicles’ photo identification card
  • United States or foreign government-issued passport
  • Permanent Resident Card (i.e. Green Card)
  • Re-entry Permit
  • Arlington Public Schools Alternate Parent Identification Card

The initial registry includes a screening against the Commonwealth of Virginia and Federal sex offender registries.

In order to qualify for the Alternate Parent Identification, the visitor must be a parent or legal guardian listed on a student’s online information file.

“For example, an aunt who is the emergency contact for an enrolled student who is not the parent or legal guardian would not be eligible [for the Alternate Parent Identification],” wrote officials in the statement.

Once admitted, visitors must wear a temporary printed badge at all times. In order to exit the school, they must go through the same kiosk and use the barcode on their temporary identification to check out.

Following the February 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, then-APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy stressed safety as a top priority, noting APS officials have been strictly “reinforcing” and “double-checking” awareness of school visitors at all times.

File photo

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Spike likes playing frisbee, playing with a chew toy, and sniffing out explosive chemicals in Reagan National Airport.

The black labrador retriever is one of four — soon to be five — explosives detection canines patrolling the airport. This morning (Monday), Spike led a public demonstration at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint to show off his nose and teach the public about airport bomb dogs for National Dog Day.

Daniel La Rose, Spike’s handler, says the daily grind of ensuring the safety of the travelling public is made better for Spike by making sure every activity feels fun and rewarding.

“It has to be interesting for the dog,” La Rose said, “he needs to feel productive.”

Activities include searches throughout the airport, and sometimes aboard aircraft and checked baggage areas. A lot of the work is what La Rose calls “cutting the wake” — walking past crowds as the dog sniffs through the wafted scents, kind of like going through the wake of a boat.

The dogs smell in ingredients, Daniel La Rose said. A lot of lotions, makeup and perfumes share some chemical elements with explosives, so La Rose warned that passengers wearing heavy perfume for their plane trip may attract the attention of explosives dogs.

Spike needs frequent stimulation. La Rose said it looks easy, but the daily job is a lot of work finding ways to keep the dog constantly positive and active.

Sometimes the Spike will be taken through areas where dummies are planted for the dog to find, to keep him training and to earn playtime with La Rose. The dogs work for play, La Rose explained, not treats. Every day is a game of hide and seek, with a few minutes playing with a tennis ball or a loving pat on the head the reward for a job well done.

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Morning Notes

Body Found in Submerged SUV — “Authorities were working Monday night to recover a body inside an SUV submerged in the Potomac River [near Roosevelt Island]… D.C. Fire & EMS said they found tire tracks leading into the river and divers were able to locate the SUV by 6 p.m. Monday. Sources confirmed to News4 that a body was trapped inside.” [NBC Washington]

Clarendon Beer Garden May Open Next Month — “The 22,000-square-foot space, dubbed The Lot… [is] anticipating an early June opening, pending final permit approvals, with plans to incorporate drinking games, picnic seating, and tacos.” [Eater]

UMD Coming to Crystal City? — “The University of Maryland is scouting out potential sites in Crystal City, where it could potentially help to feed Amazon.com Inc.’s long-term plans to hire at least 25,000 workers to support its second headquarters. The state’s flagship university is in the market for between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet to support the growth of HQ2, according to sources familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Mosque Security Measures — “Members of an Arlington, Virginia, mosque are being trained on how to respond to an active shooter. Worshippers are learning how to take security measures to protect themselves and save the lives of others. The training follows mass shooting at houses of worship around the world.” [Voice of America, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Nate Remnants Pushing Out — It has been a rainy and windy morning thanks to the remnants of what was once Hurricane Nate. The heaviest of the rain is over but it is expected to remain windy and humid during the day today, with a gale warning in effect until 6 p.m. for those on the water. [Twitter, Weather Channel]

Voter Registration Up This Cycle — Arlington County has processed twice the number of voter registration transactions between Labor Day and Oct. 6 this year as it did during the same period four years ago, according to elections chief Linda Lindberg. That suggests greater interest in this year’s statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, though County Board and School Board races are also on the ballot. [InsideNova]

Arlington Schools Get Grant — Arlington is among the Virginia localities getting a grant for new school security equipment. Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Langston High School Continuation Program are together receiving $44,480 through the state program, put in place in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in Connecticut. A total of $6 million is being divvied out to dozens of school systems, paying for “video monitoring systems, metal detectors, classroom locks, electronic-access controls, visitor-identification systems, direct communications links between schools and law enforcement agencies, and other security upgrades.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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A restaurant inside the Pentagon City Whole Foods is among those affected by a security breach to the company’s credit card system.

Whole Foods provided public notice that it “recently received information regarding unauthorized access of payment card information used at certain venues.”

The breach does not affect purchases within the regular Whole Foods grocery section, but rather at the taprooms and full-service restaurants inside some locations. Paper Horse, a ramen restaurant inside the Pentagon City Whole Foods, is one of the locations named in the security breach.

Whole Foods’ statement said it notified authorities and has launched an investigation. Customers who may have visited Paper Horse or one of the other affected locations listed online should monitor their credit card statements and contact their bank to report unauthorized charges.

Whole Foods also noted that its systems do not connect with those of its new parent company, Amazon, so purchases on Amazon.com are not involved.

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ACPD Preparing for NYE

Chooser Cruiser unveilingEven though Arlington doesn’t have any large, centrally-located New Year’s Eve celebration — like New York City’s ball drop in Times Square — local police are getting ready for a busier than usual night on Saturday.

Scanner traffic indicates that today officers are stopping at businesses that are holding celebrations tomorrow night. Police are doing preemptive safety checks, asking management about things like how many people each business expects for its celebration and how many employees or additional security staff will be present.

There are no known, specific threats to public safety in Arlington, according to police spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson, but ACPD will have extra officers in the Clarendon area on Saturday evening. Extra officers will also be on duty throughout the county to patrol for drunk drivers.

“We really want everyone to enjoy the New Year celebration in Arlington,” says Benson. “We certainly have some great restaurants and bars and invite everyone to take advantage of them, but we also ask everyone to be responsible and get home safely. There is no excuse to drive drunk.”

Police encourage everyone to pay attention to the message of the half-police cruiser, half-taxi Chooser Cruiser, currently stationed in Clarendon: Take advantage of the many safe options available for post-party transportation or you might find yourself in the back of a police car. Some options include using a designated driver, a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, the free SoberRide taxi program (1-800-200-TAXI), and the free Metrorail and Metrobus rides after midnight Saturday.

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Morning Notes

Demolition at Ballston Common Mall (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Cemetery to Start Screening Visitors — Arlington National Cemetery will begin security screening of visitors and random inspection of vehicles in November. Visitors, particularly those in large groups, are being advised to allow extra time to go through screening. [Dept. of Defense]

Police: Dog Walker Stole from Residents — A dog walker who served clients in Arlington has been charged with stealing from them. Police say 34-year-old Margarita Denison and an accomplice stole valuables from watches to jewelry to baseball cards from homes in Arlington and Fairfax. Denison worked for the dog walking service Time for a Walk, which said it runs background checks and checks references but will be tightening security. [NBC Washington]

NPS Recommends Trail Projects in Arlington — Among the 18 regional trail-related projects recommended by a new National Park Service study are two in Arlington: connecting the Roosevelt Bridge path to the Mt. Vernon Trail, and improving safety at the so-called Intersection of Doom in Rosslyn. [Greater Greater Washington]

ACPD Lauded for Crisis Intervention — A father whose son spit and cursed at police as he was taken into custody in Arlington has written an op-ed to praise the Arlington County Police Department for its crisis intervention training. The father called police after his neurologically-disabled son got drunk and left the house. Officers could have hurt the son and threw him in jail, but instead used the minimum amount of force necessary and took him to a hospital, the man said. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

American flag on the Fairlington bridge over I-395

County Board Primary Voting Today — Arlington residents are heading to the polls today to vote in the Democratic County Board primary, choosing between incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall. Polls close at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]

Shelves Stocked at New Whole Foods — Some shelves are already stocked at the new Pentagon City Whole Foods. The store is set to open on Wednesday, June 29. [Twitter]

More Security at Local Gay Bar — Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City has tightened its security, banned backpacks and is now searching purses in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. [NBC Washington]

Art Therapy Group Shutting Down — The 296 Project, which provided art therapy for veterans with PTSD, is closing down. On June 25, the group will be hosting a big art supply giveaway at its Crystal City studio. [Facebook]

Local Jewelry and Fashion List — Washingtonian Magazine has released a list of what it says are “the best places to shop in Arlington for local art, custom jewelry, and discounted designer fashion.” [Washingtonian]

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With the new year, some Arlington residents are finding Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s recently-updated access policy also extends to the base’s bowling center.

According to an ARLnow.com reader, civilians are no longer allowed to bowl on base, in leagues or otherwise, except in certain circumstance. He said he and his friends have been bowling on base for years without incident.

“I’m told the bowling leagues were decimated since many team members were civilians,” the tipster said.

Civilians who are not escorted by someone with a Department of Defense ID are not being allowed on base to bowl, unless they have a special access pass, Robert Joswiak from the JBMHH public affairs office confirmed.

Joswiak said the security policy has not changed since it was updated nearly a year ago. Last summer, the same policy caused a stir among local cyclists who could no longer ride through base without first applying for and receiving an Automated Installation Entry (AIE) pass.

“Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall takes every precaution to assure the safety and wellbeing of joint base residents, personnel and visitors,” Joswiak said. “Non-affiliated members of the public are being turned away — no matter their intent of entering the base, bowling center or otherwise — because they either do not have an DoD ID, or are not being escorted by someone with a DoD ID, or do not have an AIE.”

Civilians, cyclists and bowlers can apply for an AIE for base access. If they do so with the sponsorship of a family member or friend with a valid Department of Defense ID, the approved AIE could be valid for up to one year. A non-sponsored AIE pass is valid for 60 days with the option to reapply after that time is up.

Joswiak added all non-affiliated individuals — those without a DoD ID who are not being escorted by someone with a DoD ID — must have a valid reason to enter the base and are subject to vetting. It is likely members of the public will be turned away unless they are escorted or have an AIE.

Questions regarding this policy can be directed to 703-696-8968, Joswiak said.

Photos via JBMHH

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Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services web formArlington County has plugged a vulnerability in its automated services system for homeowners, after the vulnerability was brought to officials’ attention by ARLnow.com and a local IT services provider.

The vulnerability was in a phone system and website used by the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services to automate waste pickup scheduling and water service changes.

The phone system would allow a caller to enter either an account number or their address. When one entered an address, however, the system would then provide that homeowner’s name and account number.

With the account number, one could theoretically go online and shut off the home’s water service, or order a big pile of mulch to be delivered to their yard and billed to their account.

ARLnow.com tested the vulnerability and came one click away from sending a big mulch pile to the front yard of a national media personality who lives in Arlington. Through a spokeswoman, that individual declined to comment or be identified in this article.

Within a week of ARLnow.com notifying the county, the automated phone system had been taken offline — callers now only have the option of speaking to a customer service representative — and some account number fields were removed from online forms.

“Our approach is customer-focused and to make it convenient for residents to make service requests, order mulch and report problems through the County website or by telephone,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “It is a philosophy our customers value based on their feedback.”

“To date, we have not had a problem with people misusing the system,” Baxter continued. “As with any system, we are always looking for ways to improve while balancing the needs of our customers. Thanks for bringing this matter to our attention.”

Alexander Chamandy, the founder of Arlington-based IT services firm Envescent, LLC, was the first to spot the vulnerability.

“I discovered this unauthorized information disclosure issue by accident when scheduling a curbside pickup with Arlington,” he said. “It was disconcerting that one’s account information, name, address and other details could be shared with an unauthorized party. Because identity theft and data breaches are on the rise I felt it was important to alert ARLnow.com and Arlington County.”

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