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Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets on Thanksgiving Eve in 2019 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Thanksgiving week is here and, based on past polls, that means about 45% of you are traveling.

Our 2015 morning poll on the topic found that most local Thanksgiving travelers — about 75% — will do so by car, while 20% will travel by plane.

With that in mind, we have three key tips for Thanksgiving road and air travelers.

1. If driving, leave earlier or later in the day

Expect plenty of traffic if you’re planning to drive to your destination on Wednesday, but you can avoid some of it by leaving earlier in the morning or later at night. The same applies for those driving back on Saturday or Sunday.

“Based on the traffic data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday, Nov. 23, afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 26, and all day on Sunday, Nov. 27,” said a VDOT press release last week.

Based on a VDOT map of past travel trends, there is likely to be a fair amount of traffic in and out of Northern Virginia on Tuesday as well, particularly around the evening rush hour.

VDOT will be suspending most work zones and lane closures from Nov. 23-28, but that will only marginally ease the traffic onslaught.

2. Reserve your airport parking now

If you’re flying out of Reagan National Airport and planning to drive there, parking is currently widely available in all three lots.

However, you’re unlikely to find much — if any — parking by the time Wednesday rolls around. Fortunately, as of publication, online reservations were still available for Terminal 2 and economy parking.

DCA parking availability as of Nov. 21, 2022

Meanwhile, if you’re flying out of Dulles International Airport, don’t forget that the new Silver Line extension to Dulles is now open.

3. Drive carefully (and if you don’t, State Police might stop you)

With so many people on the roads, sometimes after having a few drinks, Thanksgiving weekend is sadly a time of many serious crashes nationwide.

That’s why authorities regularly encourage drivers to be extra careful this time of year.

Virginia State Police announced this morning that it would be conducting extra patrols and enforcement for Thanksgiving. More from a press release, below.

For many Virginians, gathering with family and friends is the true meaning for Thanksgiving. Some will even travel long distances to share in these wonderful family moments. Just as important as it is to make sure those pies and casseroles make it to the dinner table safely, motorists need to make their own safety a priority, as well. Virginia State Police is reminding all drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up this holiday weekend. Preliminary data show that 54% of those who have died in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt or safety restraint.*

“The fact that more than half of those who have lost their lives in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seatbelt is a tragic and inexcusable reality for Virginia,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and clicking a seatbelt can help that happen. Virginia State Police and your loved ones want you to arrive at your destination safely – ditch distractions, comply with posted speed limits, never drive buzzed or drunk, and, again, always buckle up.”

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(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) All but one lane of northbound I-395 was blocked just before the 14th Street Bridge after a police chase ended in a big crash.

The crash happened around 3 p.m., and followed scanner reports that Virginia State Police were pursuing a vehicle northbound on I-395. According to initial reports, the suspect vehicle rear-ended another driver just before the bridge.

Debris and police activity had most of the highway blocked.

Four people from the suspect vehicle were taken into custody. Medics responded to evaluate them, the driver who was rear-ended, and a state trooper for possible injuries.

It was not immediately clear what led to the chase. Virginia State Police will often give chase when a driver tries to flee, even if only for traffic charges, while local police departments including Arlington’s typically require more serious charges in order to authorize a pursuit.

A number of chases originating in Fairfax County have sped through Arlington on I-395 in recent weeks.

The end of the chase was captured on video by Pentagon City-based public safety watchdog Dave Statter.

Later Monday, a Virginia State Police spokesperson released the following statement on the chase and the arrests.

At 2:54 p.m. this afternoon on northbound I-395 near the Duke St. exit, Virginia State Police initiated a traffic stop for reckless driving on a 2020 Dodge Charger.

After the Trooper initiated the traffic stop, the Charger accelerated at a high rate of speed and a pursuit ensued. After reaching speeds in excess of 110 miles-per-hour, the pursuit ended near the exit for Boundary Channel Dr. where the Charger collided with another vehicle and then struck the guardrail.

Virginia State Police detained four individuals and recovered three firearms, including a “ghost gun,” as well as suspected narcotics. All firearms were loaded and had ammunition in the chamber.

The driver of the second vehicle was treated at the scene for minor injuries suffered in the crash.

Charges are pending… The pursuit and crash remain under investigation.

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Scene from a Fairfax County police chase through Arlington County (via Dave Statter/Twitter)

A number of police chases initiated outside the county have careened through Arlington this month.

An armed robbery last Tuesday at the Home Depot in Seven Corners resulted in a police chase up I-395 before the driver got stuck in traffic approaching the 14th Street Bridge and tried to escape on foot at the exit for the GW Parkway.

In another chase last week, Fairfax County police initiated a chase after a cruiser was struck in Lincolnia.

Two weeks ago, the Alexandria police department followed a car into Arlington and Virginia State Police joined the pursuit — until the driver escaped across the river into D.C. and the chase was called off.

Public safety watchdog Dave Statter keeps records of most these chases from his perch in Pentagon City. While there has been a recent mini-rash of Fairfax County-initiated pursuits, he tells ARLnow this is a less common phenomenon compared to VSP chases.

“From my experience, those two recent chases by Fairfax County Police into Arlington are more of the exception that the rule,” said Statter. “In fact, they are so infrequent I had to put in a new folder in my police video file for FCPD.”

The same night as the Lincolnia chase, Statter said state police troopers were pursuing someone, too.

“Just a few minutes earlier, VSP chased and stopped someone on I-395 N near Washington Blvd,” Statter wrote. “VSP was still working that one when the FCPD chase went by. They had a little warning from the dispatcher and a couple of troopers joined in.”

Other VSP chases through Arlington happened on Saturday and in the early hours this morning. In the early Wednesday morning chase, VSP was following a car in connection to catalytic converter thefts in Fairfax County. On Saturday, VSP was chasing a possibly stolen car.

Recent chases involving or started by VSP that went through Arlington — including those this month — concluded with the cars escaping across the Potomac River and into D.C. Often, state police abandons pursuit once the person being chased reaches the jurisdictional line.

The reason for this is that VSP has relatively loose restrictions for starting a chase, but they tighten when troopers reach state lines.

“Sworn employees may initiate a pursuit when a driver fails to stop after the sworn employee has given a lawful order to stop by activating emergency lights and/or siren,” according to Virginia State Police policy.

Anyone under pursuit for a possible misdemeanor or traffic violation is almost always in the clear if they can cross the 14th Street Bridge.

Meanwhile, Fairfax’s back-to-back chases come 13 months after the police department rolled out new, more restrictive guidance for when officers can chase suspects.

Effective September 2021, Fairfax County eliminated pursuits for misdemeanors, traffic violations and nonviolent felonies. Now, police conduct chases within Fairfax County and within Virginia for violent felonies, serious crimes with the threat or use of a firearm or explosive device, and at the authorization of a commander.

Fairfax officers join chases when they meet the department’s criteria, and officers can only pursue a car into D.C. or Maryland if the driver or passenger has attempted or is wanted for a felony crime.

Prior to the decision, Fairfax had one of the most liberal chase policies in the D.C. area, according to a police presentation from spring 2021. At the time, officials said the updated guidelines would bring the county in line with chase policies throughout the region.

“FCPD updated several pertinent policies in 2021 to further align the department with national best practices; improve officer and community safety and ensure our commitment to transparency,” according to the department’s annual crime summary for 2021. “The most significant revision included a modification to the traffic pursuit policy, which now focuses on apprehending offenders who pose the greatest risk to our community and doing so with an eye on safety.”

A comparison of police chase policies in the D.C. region (via Fairfax County)

Arlington has similar police chase policies: those wanted for relatively minor crimes are usually allowed to flee an attempted traffic stop without a chase, while violent criminals may be pursued, as happened earlier this month after an armed suspect firing shots at police was chased from Arlington to Fairfax County. Arlington’s policy follows a lawsuit nearly 40 years ago by a man who lost his legs when struck in D.C. by bank robbery suspects being chased at high speed by an ACPD officer.

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Eastbound I-66 at Exit 72 / Langston Blvd (via Google Maps)

Someone driving the wrong-way on I-66 in Arlington caused a crash that seriously injured three people, state police say.

The crash happened early this morning around 1:30 a.m., near one of the Langston Blvd exits between Rosslyn and Glebe Road.

“At approximately 1:23 a.m. Monday (Sept. 19), Virginia State Police received an emergency call concerning a vehicle driving west in the eastbound lanes of I-66,” VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller tells ARLnow. “As state troopers were responding, the wrong-way vehicle struck an eastbound vehicle head-on near Exit 72.”

“The driver of the wrong-way vehicle, and the driver and passenger in the eastbound vehicle were all transported to a nearby hospital for treatment for serious injuries,” Geller continued. “The crash remains under investigation and charges are pending.”

ARLnow is awaiting an update on the condition of the three people seriously hurt in the crash.

Hat tip to Dave Statter. Photo via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Mostly empty fields at Long Bridge Park during a heat advisory (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Virtual Learning Program Audit — “An audit of Arlington Public Schools’ calamitous start to its virtual-learning program during the 2021-22 school year was about as damning as expected, with school-system leadership responding to it by accepting some blame but also suggesting they did the best they could under trying circumstances.” [Sun Gazette]

Road Rage Drink Toss — “Lorcom Lane and Langston Boulevard. At approximately 7:33 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the report of an aggressive driver. The investigation determined the victim was driving in the area when the suspect vehicle pulled in front of her abruptly. The unknown male suspect then pulled next to the victim’s vehicle and allegedly threw a beverage at her vehicle before fleeing the scene.” [ACPD]

Hit-and-Run Fundraiser Update — The GoFundMe campaign for the family of a woman killed by a hit-and-run driver is now approaching $30,000 after exceeding its $25,000 goal in just over a day. [Twitter, Twitter]

APS HR Mystery — “Mike Krulfeld recently returned to his job as director of student activities at Yorktown High School, having been put on administrative leave in early June for reasons that were not made clear to the 24-year employee of Arlington Public Schools or the public that rallied to his cause… there was no further explanation given of what the school system had been investigating, according to sources.” [Sun Gazette]

I-395 Rush Hour Drama — From public safety watcher Dave Statter: “#caughtoncamera: Rush hour drama on I-395N when a car won’t stop for [Virginia State Police] & takes off. It hit another vehicle before coming to a stop on GW Parkway where arrests occurred.” [Twitter]

Boeing Comms Chief Based Here — “The Boeing Company today named Brian Besanceney as the company’s senior vice president and chief communications officer effective September 6… He will be based at the company’s global headquarters in Arlington, Va.” [PR Newswire]

Police Shooting in Seven Corners — “A Fairfax County detective shot a man last night (Tuesday) during what police say was a narcotics investigation in the Seven Corners area. The shooting occurred near the intersection of Arlington Blvd and Patrick Henry Drive, the Fairfax County Police Department tweeted at 11:27 p.m.” [FFXnow]

It’s Thursday — Humid throughout the day with storms and heavy rain possible later. A Heat Advisory goes into effect at 11 a.m. High of 95 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:18 pm. [Weather.gov]

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

An Alexandria man has died after a crash last week on I-395 in Arlington.

The single-vehicle crash happened around 1:30 a.m. Friday. The driver was ejected from the vehicle and later died from his injuries.

More from Virginia State Police:

At 1:28 a.m. on Friday (June 10), Virginia State Police responded to a single-vehicle crash on the on-ramp from southbound Washington Blvd. to southbound I-395.

A 2014 Chevrolet Camaro was on the ramp when it ran off the left side of the road, struck a curb and overturned.

The driver, Jose T. Villanueva, 31, of Alexandria, Va., was transported to George Washington Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle.

Speed and alcohol are being investigated as a contributing factor in the crash. The crash remains under investigation.

Several lanes of southbound I-395 were closed during the overnight hours as a result of the crash.

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Northbound I-395 traffic is partially blocked at King Street, near Arlington border, after a reported high speed chase involving Virginia State Police.

After the chase ended with a crash, an apparent arrest could be seen being made in the middle of the highway, with a man kneeling down with his hands in the air.

Numerous Arlington police units were dispatched to the area, near Fairlington, to look for a suspect who may still be on the loose. Initial reports suggest that person may now be in custody.

Arlington medics are also en route due to at least one reported injury from the crash. The chase reached speeds of up to 120 mph as it traveled through Alexandria, Arlington officers were told by state police.

The highway was completely blocked immediately after the crash, but some traffic is now squeezing by the scene. Delays have been building and are now approaching the Landmark Mall.

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Morning Notes

Kayakers on the Potomac near Key Bridge (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Driver Crashes into Trooper’s Cruiser — A Virginia State Police trooper was radioing in a license plate during a traffic stop on I-395 near Shirlington when his cruiser was rear-ended. The trooper finished giving the tag number before telling the dispatcher about the crash. [Twitter]

Circulator Strike Continues — “The first day’s negotiations between a bus drivers union and the operator of D.C. Circulator since workers began striking were unsuccessful through Wednesday evening, increasing the prospects of a potentially lengthy outage of the city’s only public bus service.” [Washington Post]

Marymount Planning Child Care Center — “Marymount University is setting up a new child care center on campus in a renovation project that it said is designed to fill a critical, and deepening, local workforce need as those with young children return to the office. The Marymount Early Learning Academy for children aged 3 to 5 will open in the summer or fall of 2023, reviving the idea of an on-campus preschool that the university used to run in the 1990s before it closed down.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sexual Battery Incident in Pentagon City — “500 block of 12th Road S…. at approximately 11:40 p.m. on April 29th the male victim had entered into the elevator of a secure residential building when the unknown suspect followed behind him. The victim exited the elevator and walked down the hallway, during which the suspect grabbed his buttocks. The suspect then fled the scene.” [ACPD]

Air Force Colonel on Trial — “An official with the California National Guard charged with indecent exposure in Arlington in March is scheduled to go to trial in Arlington on July 18… the suspect entered the business and exposed himself to female victims, according to the ACPD.” [Patch]

Falls Church Lowers Property Tax Rate — “On Monday night, the Falls Church City Council approved a $112.8 million Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) that invests in public schools, core government services, walkability and traffic calming, environmental sustainability, and more, all while reducing the real estate tax rate by 9 cents… To mitigate the 11 percent overall increase in real estate assessments, the adopted budget includes a decrease in the real estate tax to $1.23 per $100 of assessed value.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Cinco de Mayo — Mostly cloudy, with a high of 67 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:07 am and sunset at 8:06 pm. [Weather.gov]

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30th Street S. and S. Abingdon Street (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) Police swarmed the Fairlington neighborhood Friday afternoon after a car chase came to an end near Abingdon Elementary.

Virginia State Police troopers were chasing suspects in a stolen vehicle when the vehicle sped into Fairlington and then crashed, according to police.

“ACPD is assisting [VSP] with the search for three suspects who fled on foot from a stolen vehicle at S. Abingdon Street and 30th Street S.,” Arlington police said via Twitter shortly before 3:45 p.m. “Expect continued police activity in the area.”

The elementary school, which had already dismissed for the day but still had some teachers inside, according to a tipster, was quickly placed in “secure the building mode,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.

On a neighborhood Facebook group, a resident said she saw what happened.

“Happened right in front of me,” she wrote. “I was walking down Abingdon Street. Car was speeding chased by 2 police cars. Car made a sharp turn onto 30th and crashed into a parked car. Two people — looked like teenagers — got out and ran. Third person ran a different direction so I didn’t see.”

“I shudder to think what could have happened if this was just a bit earlier at school dismissal time,” the resident added.

The Fairfax County police helicopter was called in to help search for the suspects. As of 4:15 p.m., police started breaking down the perimeter they had previously established as part of the search and the school’s security stance was lifted, according to scanner traffic.

The suspects remain at large, according to a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, who recounted the series of events that led to the chase ending in Fairlington.

“At 3:17 p.m. Friday, a Virginia State Police trooper was alerted to a Toyota Camry that had been reported stolen traveling south on I-395 near Exit 4,” VSP’s Corinne Geller tells ARLnow. “When the trooper activated his emergency lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop, the vehicle refused to stop and sped away. A pursuit was initiated.”

“The stolen vehicle took Exit 4 and entered… Arlington. The driver of the Toyota lost control and the vehicle ran off the road and struck a light pole at S. Abingdon Street and 30th Street S.,” Geller continued. “The driver and two passengers fled on foot. A search perimeter was established and, with the assistance of Arlington police, a search was conducted in the area for the three males. None [were] located. The search was discontinued.”

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A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Both Virginia State Police and Arlington County police are planning coffee-centric community engagement events in the coming weeks.

This Saturday, April 16, state troopers will be at the Italian Store in Westover (5837 Washington Blvd) from 10 a.m. to noon, ready to engage with the public. VSP will also be recruiting at their “Coffee and Conversation with Virginia State Police” event, looking for new hires to join their ranks.

With continuing staff shortages, VSP recently started offering a $5,000 hiring bonus for those who complete the academy and a training program.

There is also a chance new state hires could be working more closely here in Arlington. In November, the County Board approved a mutual aid agreement that allows troopers to aid Arlington police in keeping the nightlife scene in Clarendon and Crystal City safe.

ACPD, meanwhile, is set to host the first “Coffee with a Cop” events of 2022 later this month.

On Tuesday, April 26, officers will be at the Starbucks at Penrose Square on Columbia Pike from 10:30 a.m. to noon and at East West Coffee on Wilson Blvd in Clarendon from 2-3:30 p.m.

“It’s an informal opportunity to ask questions, discuss public safety and get to know the officers and neighbors in your community,” police said.

The department has been hosting these coffee-centric engagement events since at least 2015.

ACPD also continues to struggle with staffing shortages, recently announcing that the department would cut back on some services while those reporting minor crimes well after the fact are increasingly directed to do so online rather than with an on-scene officer.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVaPD/status/1512425141908619273

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A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A young man in a carjacked Honda is facing charges after police stopped him from fleeing just before crossing a bridge into D.C.

Video of the Saturday morning incident shows police performing a PIT maneuver on the Honda as it’s being pursued in the I-395 Express Lanes, causing the car to spin and crash. It’s relatively rare for police to employ the technique in the immediate D.C. area due to safety concerns.

The video, courtesy of Dave Statter, is below.

Though Arlington County police could be seen in pursuit, it appears that a Virginia State Police trooper was the one who made contact with the fleeing car before it entered the District’s jurisdiction, which typically requires pursuing Arlington or VSP officers to call off the chase.

The Arlington County Police Department said that the pursuit started on Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City, about a block from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2.

“At approximately 10:49 a.m. on February 26, officers observed two subjects enter a parked vehicle that had been reported stolen during a carjacking in Maryland,” ACPD said in a crime report today. “Stop sticks were deployed and officers activated their emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle but the driver continued to flee onto the NB I-395 Express Lanes.”

“A vehicle pursuit was initiated and, with assistance by Virginia State Police, the suspect vehicle was stopped and both occupants were detained,” the crime report continues. “During a search of the driver, a firearm was recovered.”

The 18-year-old driver from Capitol Heights, Maryland “was transported to an area hospital and once medically cleared, arrested and charged with Receiving Stolen Goods, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Eluding and No Driver’s License,” according to police. “He was held on no bond.”

Separately, a person selling a car in the Arlington Forest neighborhood was carjacked during a test drive Sunday afternoon. Police say the person taking the test drive pulled out a gun and stole the victim’s car, phone and wallet.

From the ACPD crime report:

CARJACKING, 2022-02270120, Unit block of N. Columbus Street. At approximately 12:35 p.m. on February 27, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect and victim met for the prearranged sale of a vehicle. During a test drive of the vehicle, the suspect brandished a firearm, threatened the victim and demanded his property. The victim was able to exit the vehicle before the suspect fled the scene in the stolen vehicle with the victim’s cell phone and wallet. The victim was not injured. The suspect is described as a Black male, approximate 25 – 35 years old, 5’8″ – 5’10” tall with black hair and brown eyes. The stolen vehicle is described as a gray 2012 Nissan Maxima. The investigation is ongoing.

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