Arlington, VA

Arlington police have increased patrols around houses of worship following the recent terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the department has stepped up patrols and “conducted public outreach to our faith-based communities” in the county.

“Since the attack in New Zealand, we have been in contact with the leaders of Muslim faith-based communities in Arlington County to address any concerns they may have and ensure open lines of communication,” Savage said, adding that “officers are conducting increased patrols for all faith-based communities.”

Police are also offering “safety presentations” for community groups on active shooter situations, reporting suspicious activity, and the “risks, hazards, and vulnerabilities” in houses of worship.” Groups interested can schedule a training by emailing [email protected] or [email protected].

Muslim houses of worship in Arlington include the Baitul Mukarram Masjid mosque on S. Nelson Street in Nauck. There are also Muslim prayer services held at some local churches and hotels, according to listings found online.

The beefed up security comes after at 50 people were killed in shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Friday. The 28-year-old suspect in custody is an Australian man who reportedly posted an 87-page white supremacist memo prior to the killings.

Savage stressed that while “there are no known threats in Arlington County” people are encouraged to report suspicious activity to department by calling the non-emergency line — 703-558-2222 — or 9-1-1 in an emergency

Police in D.C. and Fairfax and Montgomery counties have also increased patrols around mosques in their communities, WTOP reported.

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Law enforcement officers from around Northern Virginia will convene in Arlington later this month for a training exercise simulating a terrorist attack or some sort of other “active violence incident.”

County police announced this week that the training will take place on Sunday, March 31. But they declined to release any details about its timing or location, except to say that it would involve “multiple locations throughout the region.”

“The public should not experience any significant impacts to traffic routes or public facilities,” police wrote in a news release. “Members of the public will see an increase in public safety vehicles and law enforcement officers in the area but should not be alarmed or concerned as they will be part of the exercise play.”

Police say the exercise will “provide participants with an opportunity to assess capabilities, plans, policies and procedures outlined in a recently developed Complex Coordinated Attack Traffic Management Plan.”

“It will focus on decision-making, coordination and integration with other organizations during an active violence incident,” police said.

The Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, a joint effort to prepare for emergencies by the area’s law enforcement agency is sponsoring the exercise. Funding will come from the Department of Homeland Security.

The following agencies plan to participate:

  • Arlington County Police Department
  • Fairfax County Police Department
  • Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority
  • Metro Transit Police Department
  • Virginia Department of Transportation
  • Virginia State Police
  • U.S. Park Police

Police say that neither members of the public nor the media will be allowed access to the exercise and its participants.

Arlington has been the site of several other terrorism, or mass violence, exercises in past years as well.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Local Reaction to NYC Terror Attack — Local officials are offering words of condolence for the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in New York City. [Twitter, Twitter]

Did Gorka Park on a Rosslyn Sidewalk? — A photo posted on Twitter seems to show the Ford Mustang convertible owned by former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka parked on a sidewalk in front of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. It is unclear why Gorka would have parked on the sidewalk and he has thus far not confirmed that it was indeed him. [Twitter, Washingtonian, Washington Examiner]

More on Rosslyn Food Hall — New details about the new food hall planned for Rosslyn: it will be called Common Ground, it will have about 10 different food vendors and it is not expected to open until late 2018. [Washington Business Journal]

VRE Picks ‘Option 2’ for Crystal City — Virginia Railway Express says it will move forward with “Option 2” for its planned Crystal City station upgrade. The plan places the station within easy walking distance of the Crystal City Metro station but it was opposed by condominium residents concerned about noise and pollution. [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Homelessness Effort — “Now nine years into a 10-year push to end homelessness here, Arlington County has virtually wiped out homelessness among veterans, and it’s on track to house the vast majority of single individuals who still need a roof over their heads.” [Arlington Magazine]

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July 19 County Board meeting screenshotThe County Board has given the go-ahead to a plan from the U.S. Department of Defense to install equipment around Arlington that could detect explosions and provide forensic data to investigators after an attack.

The board’s members voted unanimously last night to approve a license agreement between the County Board and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to install the equipment on county property.

According to a county staff report, the nature and location of the equipment will be kept secret and exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, a fact that worried ACLU of Virginia’s executive director, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. Speaking before the board, Gastañaga argued that it was “important that the capabilities of the equipment be public.”

“We don’t think think that… those capabilities of this kind of equipment are any real secret,” she said. Additionally, Gastañaga urged the board to ask the Defense Department to agree not to install listening devices or other active monitoring equipment.

County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac replied that the board has some of the same concerns as the ACLU, and added that its members have had an opportunity to examine the plans to assure “that the nature of the equipment is not the kind of thing that can record audio or visual activities.”

“It is dormant equipment that is only activated when an event occurs and it does not record audio or video,” MacIsaac said. “You can have a high level of confidence that the equipment they’re putting out there is not capable of doing the sorts of things that there is concern about.”

Board member John Vihstadt agreed with McIsaac and said that “the county has a high degree of control over exactly what DTRA is doing and what they’re putting out on county property.”

“I think a big distinction here is that we’re not turning over any part of our county’s infrastructure or geography or territory to DTRA, we’re simply entering into a licensing agreement to deploy the kind of sensors that they have described,” added board member Christian Dorsey. “That gives me great comfort that many of the civil liberties issues that Ms. Gastanaga have brought up are not going to be ongoing issues here.”

Furthermore, board chair Libby Garvey said the county could choose to cancel the agreement if it ever became concerned with the new equipment.

Screenshot via County Board video

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The Pentagon (military)The U.S. Department of Defense wants to install equipment around Arlington that could detect explosions and provide valuable data to investigators in the wake of a terror attack.

The Arlington County Board is expected to approve the installation of the detection equipment on county property at its meeting this Saturday.

A county staff report, below, notes that the nature and location of the equipment will be kept secret and exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

[The Defense Threat Reduction Agency] is a part of the U.S. Department of Defense and has requested permission from the County to install explosion detection equipment on County property. The equipment is designed to characterize explosions in urban environments. In the event of an intentional detonation, such as a terrorist attack, the information generated by the equipment will be used in the federal government’s efforts to determine who was responsible for, and how to respond to, the event. The information obtained from the equipment will be used to support law enforcement efforts. DTRA has requested that the License Agreement and supporting documentation, such as the type of equipment and the installation location, be exempted from public disclosure pursuant VA Code Section 2.2-3705.2(4) of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

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View of the Pentagon from Prospect HillA 25-year-old man from Burke, Virginia took photos of various landmarks in Arlington and D.C. for inclusion in a video that would encourage “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, according to federal prosecutors.

Haris Qamar has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or ISIS. He’s due in federal court in Alexandria this afternoon.

According to a press release, below, the Pentagon was among the targets suggested by Qamar, who had been previously tried to join ISIS but was prevented from doing so because his father took his passport.

Haris Qamar, 25, of Burke, was arrested this morning on charges of attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Qamar is scheduled to have his initial appearance today in front of Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson at 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on May 26, Qamar and FBI confidential witness (CW) discussed ISIL’s need of photos of possible targets in and around Washington, D.C., for use in a video that ISIL was purportedly making to encourage lone wolf attacks in the Washington, D.C., area.  Qamar allegedly offered CW ideas of where to take these photographs, including the Pentagon and numerous landmarks in Arlington and Washington, D.C., which could be targeted for terrorist attacks.  On June 3, a conversation was audio and video recorded when CW picked up Qamar in a vehicle and they drove to area landmarks on the list Qamar had developed.  Qamar allegedly said “bye bye DC, stupid ass kufar, kill’em all”.  Qamar and CW met again on June 10 and drove to a location in Arlington to take additional photos for the ISIL video.

The FBI first learned of Qamar as he operated over 60 variations of the Twitter handle “newerajihadi”, which Qamar used to express his support of ISIL and share videos and photos of extreme violence, including beheadings and mass shootings. For example, after terrorists murdered employees of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015, Qamar tweeted his prayer for another similar attack with even more casualties.

According to the allegations, during numerous conversations with CW, Qamar expressed his interest and excitement in the extreme violence ISIL is known for.  Qamar said he loved the bodies, blood and beheadings, and he recalled watching a video of a Kurdish individual being slaughtered, and liked the cracking sound made when the individual’s spinal cord was torn. On several occasions Qamar allegedly said he could slaughter someone and described how he would do it.  Qamar also stated that he admired lone wolf attackers because they love Islam so much that they are willing to die as martyrs for Islam and in the same conversation, Qamar and CW allegedly discussed suicide bombings. CW said that he did not believe in suicide bombings, but Qamar allegedly responded “I believe in it 100 percent.”

On Sept. 11, 2015, terrorists connected with ISIL posted a “kill list” to the internet containing the names and addresses of U.S. military members.  A few days later, Qamar allegedly told CW that the residences of several service members who appeared on the “kill list” were near Qamar’s own home, and that Qamar had observed undercover police cars near those residences.  According to the affidavit, on Sept. 16, 2015, Qamar tweeted his prayer that Allah “give strength to the mujahideen to slaughter every single US military officer.”

Additionally, the affidavit alleges that on Sept. 25, 2015, Qamar told CW that he tried to join the ISIL in 2014, but that his parents prevented him from going by controlling his passport.  Qamar allegedly said that his parents threatened to notify law enforcement authorities and said that he fought with his father and called his father a traitor to Islam.  According to the allegations, on Nov. 18, 2015, CW asked Qamar if his father gave him back his passport would he go and join ISIL, and in response, Qamar said if that happened, “I’m done, I leave.”

Qamar faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Division, made the announcement after the charges were unsealed.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon D. Kromberg is prosecuting the case with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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Rep. Don Beyer in his Capitol Hill office (file photo)Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has released a statement about Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The shooting left 50 dead, including the gunman, who pledged allegiance with ISIS.

In his statement, Beyer said “we must make progress on gun safety” while also remaining “committed to the long term fight against Islamic extremism.”

Our hearts are broken. Forty-nine Americans, in the primes of their lives, murdered in the name of an evil ideology, targeted for their sexual orientation. I don’t want to believe the death toll.  As with so many tragedies in our nation’s and the world’s history, we cannot fathom the cruelty and raw evil of man’s inhumanity to man.

But it seems essential that we figure out how to stop these slaughters.

Number one, we must make progress on gun safety. When the Founding Fathers wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights to our Constitution, the right for a “well-regulated militia to keep and bear arms” certainly did not anticipate military grade automatic weapons capable of killing huddled school children and dancing young people by the dozens in seconds. Banning assault weapons must be a meaningful first step.

Number two, we must be committed to the long term fight against Islamic extremism.  Yes, we have our own share of psychopathic, sociopathic young men who kill for ideology or joy. But the ISIS and al-Qaeda inspired missions to kill infidels and to proclaim an Islamic caliphate have created an ideological terror center for the most unbalanced people within a massive, historic, peaceful religion. While respecting the millions of Muslims who live, work, and build communities with us, contributing to our American society and culture – still, we must be relentless in detecting, disrupting, and destroying the extremist cells and their acolytes, here and abroad.

Number three, we must recognize that homophobia cannot be contained. Hatred breeds hatred. We are horrified that one man targeted LGBT victims at two a.m. on an Orlando Sunday morning. But we are not blameless, when we tell government contractors it is okay to discriminate against someone because they are gay or lesbian – or tell transgender school children that we will not respect their gender identity.

Our sincere, sustained message of inclusion will create a powerful wall against LGBT hate.

We live in an imperfect world. But let’s do what we can – ban assault weapons, destroy ISIS, and celebrate our LGBT friends and family. Perhaps this is how we best honor the fallen of Orlando.

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Arlington County police logoThe Arlington County Police Department is well-prepared for active shooter and terrorism threats.

That’s the message from a statement issued by ACPD today, in response to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California earlier this week.

The statement, below, also encourages residents to report suspicious activity via the county’s Homeland Security Tip Form or via smartphone app.

The Arlington County Police Department extends our sincere condolences to the San Bernardino, California community. We want to reassure the citizens of Arlington County that our officers remain vigilant in their patrols of our community. Officers receive extensive training in active shooter situations and have the tools necessary to respond should an incident occur. There are currently no active threats to the Washington, D.C. area and our Homeland Security Section continues to monitor these incidents with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

Citizens are encouraged to go about their normal business while paying particular attention to their surroundings. You are the first line of defense against terrorism and by providing information to law enforcement, you may help deter possible terrorist activity. Report suspicious activity in Arlington County using the Homeland Security Tip Form or to nationwide intelligence centers using the See Send smartphone application. Together, we can help keep Arlington County safe.

 

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Morning Notes

Moon leaf (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Prosecutor: Black Asked for Help Killing Wife — At a bond hearing Monday, prosecutors said that David Black asked a friend to help kill his wife in a classic case of domestic violence. Black was denied bond and will remain in jail, charged with killing his estranged wife Bonnie Black in their home near Pentagon City. The trial is set for Feb. 29. [WUSA 9]

One of the Worst Traffic Bottlenecks — Arlington has one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, according to the American Highway Users Alliance. I-395 between Washington Blvd and the GW Parkway ranked No. 26 on the list, wasting 1.1 million hours and 322,600 gallons of fuel annually. [WTOP]

TSA HQ Move May Be Delayed — The Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters may be staying in Pentagon City past 2017 after all. A judge has halted the TSA’s move to Alexandria in response to a protest of the lease bidding process by a losing bidder. [Government Executive]

Arlington GOP May Ditch Office — In order to save money, the Arlington County Republican Committee is considering giving up the $1,100 per month office it rents in the Dominion Arms apartment building. [InsideNova]

See Something, Type Something — Arlington County’s website has a “Homeland Security Tip Form,” for reporting “suspicious activity that may be related to terrorism” in Arlington. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Arlington Medical Reserve CorpsArlington County will conduct a training exercise this week that will test its ability to respond to biological emergencies.

The exercise will simulate the door-to-door delivery of medication in the event of bioterrorism or a natural pandemic. On Thursday, April 25, some 50 volunteers will deliver small bags to the doorknobs of residents at the Gates of Ballston and River Place West apartment complexes, and in the Aurora Highlands and Ballston/Virginia Square neighborhoods.

“The bag will contain emergency preparedness information and other contents designed to simulate the weight and bulk of the actual medication that may be delivered in an emergency,” said Kurt Larrick, communications manager for the Arlington County Department of Human Services.

He continued: “The purpose of the exercise is to enhance the County’s ability to respond in an emergency by understanding how long it might take to reach all doorknobs in Arlington, should the need arise to give out antibiotic medicine and provide important information in a public health emergency where timely delivery to the population is essential.”

Larrick was asked: could the door-to-door delivery of medication also help in the theoretical scenario of a zombie apocalypse?

“We take an ‘all hazards’ approach to our emergency preparedness and response, so I am confident in our ability to respond quickly and effectively to any scenario, including zombies,” Larrick told ARLnow.com.

Before the distribution exercise on Thursday, about 25 volunteers will gather at the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) on Tuesday to help assemble the materials that will be used in the exercise.

In the event of a real medical emergency, the county will have the option of delivering medication door-to-door, or setting up a number of “PODs” — or Points of Dispensing — in the community. While delivering door-to-door to Arlington’s 100,000 households sounds daunting, the county has access to more than 300 Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and 3,500 county staffers to do the job.

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Morning Notes

Cleveland Park near Columbia Pike

Advisory Lifted for Local Waterways — A warning from Arlington County to stay out of Arlington Branch, Lower Long Branch and Four Mile Run has been lifted. The advisory was issued on April 9 after a sewage release near Columbia Pike. “The precaution was issued to allow time for the effect of the release to be diminished by natural flushing of the streams,” the county said. [Arlington County]

Husband of Track Coach Caught Boston Chaos on Camera — John Walls, the husband of Bishop O’Connell cross country and track coach Cindy Walls, captured the chaos of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings on video. Walls was waiting for Cindy and his daughter Katie to cross the finish line when one of the bombs exploded across the street from where he was seated. He was shaken but uninjured. [WJLA]

Burned-Down House Cited for Code Violations — The Hall’s Hill house that was destroyed by fire yesterday has been cited several times in the past for building code violations. Officials are now investigating whether property owner Paul Chretien was in violation of the code by allowing more than four unrelated people to live in the house. [Washington Post]

Police Seek Theft Suspect — The Arlington County Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a 21-year-old man who stole an iPhone. “Police believe that the suspect has also been involved in several other crimes,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]

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