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Police cruiser rear-ended in Courthouse (photo courtesy Megan J.)

A driver ran into the back of a stopped Arlington police cruiser in Courthouse yesterday afternoon.

The crash, which happened two blocks from police headquarters — next to the construction site that was formerly a Wendy’s — happened around 2:30 p.m.

It’s unclear what led to the crash. Video posted by local public safety watchdog Dave Statter shows a car approaching the cruiser, which was stopped at a light, and simply plowing into it. The cruiser is pushed into the intersection before the driver apparently stops accelerating.

Immediately after, the driver and other occupants of the vehicle get out and talk to the officer. The cruiser’s rear bumper and window were both damaged in the crash.

Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow that the driver received a traffic citation for “Failure to Pay Full Time and Attention.”

This is at least the second ACPD cruiser damaged in a crash in the past week. On Friday, Dec. 29 a driver in Clarendon allegedly pulled in front of an officer speeding toward an incident, resulting in a wreck that nearly sent the civilian vehicle into a nearby storefront.

That driver was cited for “Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way,” Savage said.

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Arlington County courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Widespread speed cameras and more funding for prosecutors are two emerging priorities for Arlington County during the upcoming legislative session.

The Arlington County Board got a first look at its legislative priorities during a meeting last night (Tuesday). They cover a range of topics, from funding for improving public transportation to tackling the behavioral health crisis crippling Arlington and the state.

The new priorities come one week after elections for both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats retained control of the Virginia State Senate and obtained a slim majority in the House of Delegates, previously controlled by Republicans. Still, policymakers — who will meet with the Board on Tuesday, Nov. 28 to discuss their priorities — will have to contend with a divided government, as the GOP controls the executive branch.

Going into the session, which begins Jan. 10, 2024, Arlington County is looking to state legislators to introduce bills granting local authority for automated speed enforcement beyond work and school zones, per a county report.

More speed cameras are part of the county’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes, as well as a recommended way to reduce potentially adverse interactions between officers and civilians during traffic stops. In January 2022, the County Board approved their installation in school and work areas to reduce speed-related crashes in these areas.

Since then, however, the process of installing these cameras in these zones has stalled. In March, Police Chief Andy Penn said a contract could be ready this spring but, nine months later, police and Vision Zero Coordinator Christine Baker told ARLnow this week that the contract is still in the “procurement” phase and tied up in negotiations.

Moving from the streets to the county courthouse, Arlington County says it would like legislation to “ensure there is adequate funding for the prosecution of misdemeanors, civil duties, and the creation of diversion services.”

This responds to several issues that have arisen within the local criminal-legal system and others across the state, with the introduction of body-worn cameras, contracted staffing levels and mounting pressure for programs diverting from jail people who commit nuisance crimes or have an addiction or serious mental illnesses.

“The work of prosecution has changed considerably over the past years, and arguably decades, and in some respects, our office has failed to keep pace or appropriately adjust expectations about the services our office could reasonably provide with limited resources,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said in a 2020 memo to County Manager Mark Schwartz.

Reviewing body-worn camera footage, for instance, became a deciding factor for Dehghani-Tafti to pull prosecutors from jailable misdemeanor offenses such as driving without a valid operator’s license, driving on a suspended license, reckless speeding and numerous registration offenses.

In the memo to Schwartz, the top prosecutor said she did not come to this decision lightly. Rather, she first sought counsel from a state agency that trains prosecutors and the Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel. Both said prosecutors would need to review thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage to meet their obligations to share all exculpating or incriminating evidence.

“Unfortunately, at present we have neither the staff nor resources to review, process and disclose camera footage and other evidence from 40,000 cases,” Dehghani-Tafti said in the memo.

To that end, Arlington County says it is also wants to see state funding for additional positions to review body-worn camera footage “to increase transparency and accountability with law enforcement.”

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Police officer talks with driver during high-visibility enforcement along Little Falls Road (via ACPD)

Arlington County police will be out in force tomorrow along two busy roads, conducting high visibility traffic enforcement.

The action is part of the region’s annual spring “Street Smart” campaign, which “focuses on educating drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists about traffic laws and how to safely share our roadways.” The campaign will run through Sunday, May 14.

“As the warmer months approach and the days grow longer, more people will be walking, biking and operating shared mobility devices throughout our community,” ACPD said in a press release today. “To ensure all travelers can reach their destinations in a safe and timely manner, area law enforcement will participate in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Spring Street Smart campaign.”

“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,” the release continues.

A pair of “high-visibility enforcement activations” are planned Wednesday for the campaign.

Officers will be out enforcing traffic laws along Langston Blvd in Rosslyn, between N. Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive, from 11 a.m. to noon, according to ACPD. That’s the same block on which a woman pushing a stroller was struck by a dump truck in 2018. The woman lost a leg but the truck driver ultimately only received a traffic citation.

Later, from 4-5 p.m., officers will post up on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road, near the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

Another round of traffic enforcement is planned for Thursday, May 2: from 11 a.m. to noon along N. Pershing Drive at N. Thomas Street and from 4-5 p.m. on the 5200 block of Columbia Pike.

“As part of our department’s key initiative of Transportation Safety, officers will conduct traffic enforcement throughout the campaign with the goal of compliance, even when police are not present,” ACPD said.

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Police officer talks with a driver during high-visibility enforcement along Little Falls Road (via ACPD)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Police issued a traffic ticket every six minutes, on average, during an enforcement effort in front of Nottingham Elementary on Thursday afternoon.

The several block stretch of Little Falls Road near the school, in the Williamsburg neighborhood, has seen three fatal pedestrian crashes since 2014, including an elderly woman who was struck and killed by the driver of an SUV in October. That driver is not facing criminal charges.

Arlington County police conducted yesterday’s high-visibility enforcement as part of its Street Smart road safety campaign.

“During yesterday’s hour-long StreetSmart activation in the 5900 block of Little Falls Road, which coincided with school dismissal, officers issued 8 speeding citations and 2 citations for stop sign violations,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Drivers are reminded to slow down, be mindful of pedestrians and obey posted speed limits which change during school zone times and are indicated by flashing yellow lights.”

“Officers will continue to conduct periodic random, rotating enforcement in the area with the goal of compliance even when police are not present,” Savage noted. “Additionally, as part of our education efforts, police have deployed a variable message board on Little Falls Road with transportation safety messaging.”

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services added that safety improvements are in the works for the intersection where October’s crash happened.

“In response to the recent tragic crash fatality at the intersection of Little Falls Rd and John Marshall Dr, the Vision Zero Critical Crash team has developed short-term safety improvements and enhancements for this intersection,” the department said in a brief statement. “We plan to install these improvements by the end of the year, weather permitting.”

More on the fall Street Smart campaign in Arlington, below, via an ACPD video.

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ACPD traffic enforcement in Virginia Square in 2019 (via ACPD)

Arlington County police are set to conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement tomorrow as part of its “Street Smart” road safety campaign.

The enforcement will take place Thursday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Arlington View neighborhood, just south of Columbia Pike, at the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Rolfe Street.

A second enforcement campaign is planned for Thursday, Dec. 1 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in front of Nottingham Elementary School, in the Williamsburg neighborhood. That’s near the scenes of three fatal pedestrian crashes that have occurred since 2014, including one last month.

“The Street Smart campaign aims to identify and change unsafe behavior patterns amongst motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, with the goal of reducing the number of traffic related collisions and injuries on our roadways,” police said in a press release.

The full ACPD press release is below.

Fall brings cooler temperatures and less daylight hours, meaning reduced visibility during peak commuting times for all road users. As we adjust to the end of Daylight Saving Time, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is sharing important transportation safety tips to ensure all travelers can reach their destinations safely. ACPD and law enforcement agencies throughout the region will take part in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Fall Street Smart Campaign from November 7 – December 4. The Street Smart campaign aims to identify and change unsafe behavior patterns amongst motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, with the goal of reducing the number of traffic related collisions and injuries on our roadways.

Street Smart Enforcement Activations

As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement at the following locations:

  • Thursday, November 10, 2022, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. – 12th Street S. at S. Rolfe Street
  • Thursday, December 1, 2022, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. – 5900 block of Little Falls Road […]

Transportation Safety Tips

No matter how you travel, remember to always be a P.A.L. – predicable, alert and lawful.

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Slow down, drive the speed limit and obey all posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Remain alert for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Use caution when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • Yield to people walking or biking when turning.
  • Allow for at least 3 feet when passing bicyclists.
  • Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving. Holding a hand-held communication device while driving is illegal in Virginia.

Pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they are available.
  • Use pushbuttons when available and wait for the walk signal to cross the street.
  • Look both ways before crossing.
  • Remain visible, especially after dark and in bad weather, by wearing light colored or reflective clothing.
  • Watch for blind spots around trucks and buses.
  • Avoid using devices that distract you, such as cell phones, while crossing the street.

Bicyclists and shared mobility device operators are reminded to:

  • Ride in the same direction as traffic, using bike lanes when possible.
  • Use hand signals to communicate your intentions with other travelers.
  • Wear a helmet, which is required for all bicycle riders 14 years of age and younger and recommended for all other riders. (Arlington County Code 14.2-64.)
  • Keep your eyes on the road and avoid the use of devices that may distract you.
  • Remain visible, especially after dark and in bad weather, by wearing light colored or reflective clothing.
  • Use headlights and taillights, especially when riding between sunset and sunrise.

MORE: Tips for Safe Operation of E-Scooters in Arlington County

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Red light camera in Rosslyn (file photo)

While Fairfax County mulls installing speed cameras, it may be some time before locals see speed cameras go up in Arlington.

In January, the Arlington County Board approved their installation in school and work areas to reduce speed-related crashes in these areas. The move is part of its Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries.

The Board made its move after the Virginia legislature allowed municipalities to install them in these locations in 2020.

But the Arlington County Police Department is still working on finding a vendor to implement the cameras, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien.

“ACPD is in the process of launching a procurement for a vendor, which is estimated to wrap up in spring 2023,” she tells ARLnow.

Once a vendor is chosen, the pace toward implementation could speed up. O’Brien says the county will have a better idea of where the cameras will go and when they’ll be installed “once vendor procurement is complete.”

The same is true for community updates.

“We will begin further community outreach and education once we are closer to procuring a vendor and beginning implementation, which will likely be in spring 2023,” she said.

Camera locations have not yet been chosen, said O’Brien. But Arlington schools have been close to a number of notable crashes, including a fatal crash involving a motorcyclist in front of Drew Elementary School, a fatal crash involving a pedestrian and a driver near Nottingham Elementary School, a fatal pedestrian crash near Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and a less serious crash involving a cyclist near Kenmore Middle School.

Locations will be chosen based on guidelines that DES has worked on with a consultant. That effort, funded by a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments grant, is wrapping up, O’Brien said.

“The County (ACPD, APS, and DES) will then collaborate to refine and finalize specifications and guidelines, using the information from the grant project combined with local needs and knowledge,” she said.

Future progress, such as approving the vendor or camera locations, won’t need County Board approval, O’Brien said.

Once installed, cameras will identify and ticket speeding vehicles using radar, and police officers review footage to confirm the speeding violations. Tickets will be issued by mail to drivers traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit, per state law.

The tickets will cost $50 and won’t result in a points reduction on your driver’s license or impact insurance rates.

“Speed camera fines are intended to encourage people to drive the speed limit,” the county says. “Fines do not generate revenue for police or transportation programs. Rather, fines issued will be distributed to the County’s General Fund. Therefore, there is no incentive to use speed cameras to fund department budgets.”

Community engagement is not set to begin until spring 2023. Previous outreach conducted as part of Arlington’s Vision Zero initiative, which reached more than 1,000 community members, indicated support for the cameras, according to the county.

Likewise, some supported speed cameras during online forums facilitated by Arlington’s Police Practices Work Group, as a way to reduce race- and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement.

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Arlington police about to pull over someone who rolled through a stop sign (video courtesy Kevin F.)

Arlington County Police Department motor officers had no shortage of drivers to pull over at a Rosslyn area intersection this year.

A resident who lives near the intersection of N. Pierce Street and 16th Street N. sent the following video, a compilation of drivers being pulled over for rolling through the intersection’s stop signs.

“This guy’s done. Oh, he’s so done,” the resident can be heard saying, as sirens started blaring and the police motorcycle started rumbling towards its prey.

An ACPD spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the department indeed engages in proactive traffic education and enforcement.

“Transportation safety is a key initiative of the Arlington County Police Department and officers take a two pronged approach of education and enforcement to ensure the safety of all travelers on our roadways,” said Ashley Savage. “As part of the Department’s traffic safety program, we work collaboratively with other County agencies and community members to address areas of concern.”

“Failure to stop at stop signs is a common concern we hear from community members throughout the County… It is a violation of Virginia Code § 46.2-821 to fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign,” Savage added. “Officers conduct enforcement in identified areas of concern on a random rotating basis with the goal of compliance even when police are not present.”

As of last week, ACPD officers had issued more than 3,000 traffic tickets (or summons, in Virginia law enforcement parlance) and 1,000 warnings for stop sign violations over the course of 2021, according to data provided by the department.

Stop sign tickets and warning issued in 2021 (via ACPD)
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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Get ready for it to get darker even earlier.

Daylight Saving Time ends early Sunday morning, and along with the clocks being turned back by an hour will come 5 p.m. sunsets and extra traffic enforcement in the D.C. area.

Authorities say November is a crucial time for safety on local roads, particularly due to less daylight during the morning and evening rush hours, and they’re stepping up enforcement to try to counter that.

“Area residents can expect increased enforcement of traffic safety laws that protect people walking and biking in the metropolitan Washington region,” said the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, in announcing its fall Street Smart campaign earlier this week. “Police departments across the region will be ticketing drivers who fail to obey the speed limit or don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.”

Arlington County police said the added enforcement will run from today through the end of the month, with two “high-visibility” enforcement events in between, in Lyon Park and Ballston.

From an ACPD press release:

The arrival of fall brings cooler temperatures and less daylight during commuting hours. Everyone wants you to arrive at your destination safely, that’s why the Arlington County Police Department, and law enforcement agencies throughout the region, will participate in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Fall Street Smart campaign from November 5 – November 30. The Street Smart campaign aims to identify and change unsafe behavior patterns amongst motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, with the goal of reducing the number of traffic related collisions and injuries on our roadways.

Street Smart Enforcement Activations

As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement at the following locations:

  • Tuesday, November 9, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – 2500 block of Washington Boulevard
  • Wednesday, November 17, 2021 from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. – 4200 block of Fairfax Drive […]

Transportation Safety Tips

Whether you travel by foot, two wheels or four wheels, make our roadways safer by being a PAL – predictable, alert and lawful.

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • Use caution when passing buses or stopped vehicles.
  • Yield to people walking or biking when turning.
  • Allow for at least 3 feet when passing bicyclists.
  • Avoid using your cell phone and never text while driving. Holding a hand-held communication device while driving is illegal in Virginia.

Pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they are available.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street.
  • See and be seen! Wear light colored or reflective clothing after dark.
  • Watch for blind spots around trucks and buses.
  • Avoid using devices that distract you, such as cell phones, while you’re crossing the street.

Shared Mobility Device operators and bicyclists are reminded to:

  • Ride in the same direction as traffic, using bike lanes when possible.
  • Use hand signals to communicate your intentions with drivers.
  • Wear a helmet, which is required for all bicycle riders 14 years of age and younger and recommended for all other riders.
  • Keep your eyes on the road and avoid the use of devices that may distract you.
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather with light colored and reflective clothing. Use lights at night when visibility is poor.

The Street Smart campaign includes a public education component, featuring videos of crash survivors and the families of those killed on local roads. Among them is Arlington resident Helen Harris, who lost her leg after being struck by a dump truck in Rosslyn in December 2018.

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Amid a nationwide epidemic of speeding on highways emptied of traffic by the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia State Police are urging drivers to slow down.

Two incidents on I-395 in Arlington last week illustrate the need for less speed.

First, state police say speeding was the main factor in a crash involving a 23-year-old driver last Wednesday. Despite a photo that shows the car heavily damaged — after striking a construction trailer sign, a crash impact attenuator, and an SUV — police say the driver only suffered minor injuries.

Over the weekend, VSP posted a photo of a speeding ticket issued to a driver accused of going 115 mph along I-395, where the speed limit it 55 mph. A trooper issued the ticket Saturday morning.

“Would this make your mother proud?” state police asked, ahead of the Mother’s Day holiday.

https://twitter.com/VSPPIO/status/1259214444275605504

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(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) The “How’s My Driving” cycling safety app is planning an event in Arlington tomorrow to collect data on bike lane violations.

App co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow that a team of about 40 people are gearing up to hit streets in Crystal City, Ballston, and Rosslyn on Thursday to count the number of times vehicles block bike lanes. The volunteers will track the bike lane violations on S. Crystal Drive, Fairfax Drive, and N. Lynn Street by reporting blockages through the app, which will share the data through a live dashboard.

“Crystal Drive and Lynn Street are just consistently blocked,” said Sussman. “The problem is that we don’t understand the size and the scope of the problem.”

Video recently posted to Twitter shows multiple stopped vehicles blocking the Crystal Drive bike lane. An Arlington County Police tweet from this summer showed a similar violation on Crystal Drive leading to a traffic ticket.

Sussman and his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer, are hoping data collected by volunteers tomorrow during the morning and evening rush hours and lunchtime can help fix that.

Currently, only app users in the District can report violations through the app and see how many other violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle — courtesy of a bot that fetches the DMV data. But Susan and Schep have been eyeing expansion into Arlington for months as the app gained popularity and people began reporting violations across the Potomac, too.

The pair say they’re hoping Thursday acts as a demonstration of what kind of real-time data officials could have access to if they contract with “How’s My Driving” in the future.

Volunteers are also out collecting bike lane blockage data today in Pittsburgh. Previously, people helped with a data collection day in D.C. which yielded 700 violations, and another one for bus lane blockages that tracked 300 violations.

“When you get that amount of data, patterns really start to emerge. You can use that data in aggregate both for enforcement purpose and transportation planning,” said Sussman.

However the app creator emphasized that these data collection days are not designed for enforcement purposes, and act as more of a proof of concept.

“No one is getting citations. No one is reporting to authorities,” said Sussman. “The data is only reported in aggregate in a presentation to the county. It would never be used to call out for specific vehicles.” 

“The overall effort is not to shame or expose particular violators,” he added. 

Photo by Sal Ferro

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Arlington is a hard-charging town, home to the headquarters of the world’s most powerful military and the second headquarters of one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Sometimes, however, the Type A-ness that helps make Arlington Arlington produces negative side effects. A prime example one might cite? More-impatient-than-average drivers.

That was on display this morning (Thursday) as Arlington County Police conducted another high-visibility pedestrian enforcement campaign near the FDIC offices in Virginia Square.

Video posted by ACPD shows an undercover police officer, wearing a brightly-colored t-shirt, walking across Fairfax Drive at N. Kansas Street in a crosswalk as two vehicles approach. Neither stop nor appear to slow down, narrowly missing the officer, who then signals for each to be pulled over and cited.

The law, however, requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in such cases.

In all, 25 summonses for Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian in the Crosswalk were issued this morning during the enforcement action, police said.

“Remember that the streets don’t belong to any one of us, they belong to all of us,” police said in a tweet shortly after the campaign concluded. “Share our roadways with all travelers by being a PAL: Predictable | Alert | Lawful.”

Screenshot via ACPD

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