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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.

Morning Notes

Some remaining snow on a Courthouse sidewalk (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

DCA Has One of TSA’s ‘Top 10 Catches’ of 2021 — “On March 6, 2021, TSA officers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) stopped a traveler carrying a well-worn, heavy-duty, wooden-handled machete. Officers noted the blade showed significant wear, as if it had seen a lot of use.” [Patch]

Arlington Apartment Rentals Rebound — “After falling 13 percent in 2020 as the pandemic roared in, median apartment rents in Arlington were up a tidy 16.8 percent in 2021, according to new data, leaving renters paying more now than they did before the COVID crisis started.” [Sun Gazette]

Hundreds Use SoberRide Over Holidays — “While the count was impacted by the ongoing pandemic, 461 individuals in the Washington region availed themselves of a SoberRide free ride home during the holiday period, the sponsoring organization said on Jan. 6.” [Sun Gazette]

State Police Give Arlington Company Kudos — “The state police said a trooper waved a group of men from CG Remodeling Services of Arlington driving by to ask for a shovel, and instead ‘they all jumped out of their trucks and dug the motorist out in minutes and got them safely on their way again.'” [WJLA]

County Board Names Commission Leaders — The delegations to the advisory boards, which range from groups on transportation to housing to economic development, will run through the end of 2022. [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 28. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 5:06 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny and a bit warmer, with a high near 43 and south wind 7 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) The snowflakes are tapering off across Arlington, but police, firefighters and plow crews are still hard at work.

The heavy, wet snow has made vehicle travel treacherous and nearly impossible in certain hilly parts of the county. Even frequently-plowed highways and main routes like I-395, Route 50 and Columbia Pike were impassable at points during the storm.

Power outages have continued to increase, exceeding 4,500 in Arlington as of 2 p.m. amid numerous reports of falling trees and branches.

Transit issues extend beyond Arlington Transit and Metrobus service being suspended. Blue Line service as suspended between the Pentagon and Rosslyn shortly before 1 p.m. due to a fallen tree on the tracks.

As of 12:30 p.m., Reagan National Airport was under a ground stop, with arrivals and departures mostly paused and numerous flights cancelled.

In addition to schools and Arlington County government offices and facilities, many businesses around Arlington have closed for the day. Among the restaurants not serving tonight are Pupatella Pizza’s two Arlington locations.

The winter storm has exceeded accumulation predictions across the region and the state — and caused gridlock and dozens of crashes on the roads.

“Since 12:01 a.m. Monday (Jan. 3), Virginia State Police emergency communications centers across the state have fielded over 2,000 total calls for service,” VSP said this afternoon. “Of those 2,000 calls, 72 are ongoing traffic crashes and 69 disabled vehicles that VSP troopers are still on scene with or responding to as of 3:30 p.m.

VSP’s Fairfax Division, which serves the inner Northern Virginia suburbs, reported 143 disabled vehicles and 68 crashes as of 3:30 p.m.

https://twitter.com/JWPascale/status/1478063158736691203

“State police is still asking people to avoid driving, unless absolutely unnecessary,” the agency said. “The drive is not worth the risk of a crash, getting stuck, injury to your/passenger, or the cost of a repair.”

With the snow tapering off, reports suggest 6-9 inches of accumulation in parts of Arlington.

As of noon, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says it is in “Phase 2” of its snow response, treating primary and secondary roads while neighborhood streets remain mostly snow-covered.

VDOT, meanwhile, says it is preparing for a possible refreeze overnight, which could lead to extremely hazardous driving conditions Tuesday morning.

“VDOT Northern Virginia crews will remain on duty this afternoon and overnight to push accumulation, as well as to treat roads overnight for the refreeze of any melted precipitation to the pavement,” the state transportation department said in a mid-afternoon update. “Overnight tonight and tomorrow morning, limit nonessential trips if possible, and remain keenly alert to icy spots if traveling.”

This afternoon, Arlington Public Schools joined Fairfax County and other major D.C. area school systems in announcing that there would be no school on Tuesday.

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Update at 8:35 a.m. — The missing woman has been “safely located,” police say.

Earlier: Police are searching for a “critically missing” 89-year-old woman from Arlington.

A statewide Virginia Senior Alert has been issued for Mary Smith, who was last seen last night on S. Arlington Ridge Road near Pentagon City.

More from police:

The Arlington County Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance locating a critically missing Arlington woman. Ms. Mary Francis Smith, was last seen at approximately 8:30 p.m. on December 28 in the 1100 block of S. Arlington Ridge Road.

Ms. Smith is described as a White female, 89 years old, 5’4″, with short, dark hair, wearing a grey and blue striped shirt, grey jeans, and maroon leather boots. She is considered critically missing due to mental and/or physical health concerns.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Expect heavy traffic on the southbound GW Parkway just after Spout Run due to a crash following a police pursuit.

Initial reports suggest that Virginia State Police troopers chased a fleeing suspect in a Dodge up the Spout Run Parkway and then back down onto the southbound lanes of the Parkway, when the suspect crashed.

Arlington medics were requested to the scene to evaluate possible minor injuries.

Numerous police cruisers were still on scene of the crash as of 5:30 p.m. The wreck appeared to involve the red Dodge, which ran up an embankment on the right ride of the Parkway, and a second non-police vehicle, which had its airbags deployed after crashing into the left-hand stone wall.

One center lane of traffic was squeezing by the police response. As of 5:45 p.m. Google Maps shows traffic on the Parkway backed up to Route 123 in McLean.

Map via Google Maps

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Reckless drivers are regularly backing up on I-395 to get to the Express Lanes, despite bollards placed to prevent it.

Video has captured a number of drivers getting onto northbound I-395 from the Route 110 ramp, near the Pentagon, then driving in reverse to get around bollards that block access to the high-occupancy toll lanes. In return for driving the wrong way on a major highway, the drivers get to save a couple of minutes by avoiding minor traffic backups in the main lanes of the 14th Street Bridge.

Footage of the wrong-way drivers has been published by public safety watchdog Dave Statter over the past two years. The most recent jaw-dropping video — showing multiple drivers drive in reverse in traffic lanes — was posted last week.

It appears the scofflaws have upped their antics in response to the addition of the bollards near where the main lanes and the Express Lanes split, before the bridges.

“Last year, in close coordination with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and external engineering firms, we worked together to determine that adding bollards at that location was and continues to be the best solution,” said Pam Davila of the Australian company Transurban, which operates the 495/95/395 HOT lanes. “We’re confident that the bollards continue to serve their purpose and cannot stress enough that drivers should be mindful to practice safe driving at all times, on and off the Express Lanes.”

She said Transurban and VDOT discussed “other mitigation options” and talked extensively about issues such as the optimum length for the bollards.

After they went up, Statter observed an improvement, but 15 months later, people are out-maneuvering them.

Virginia State Police is “very aware of” this problem, spokeswoman Corinne Geller says, and is working with VDOT and Transurban to tackle it from both enforcement and engineering perspectives.

“As a preventative measure, state police has stepped up its enforcement and presence in that particular area,” she said. “But our troopers simply cannot be everywhere all the time, nor would permanently stationing a trooper at that one location be efficient or fair use of our limited resources across the Northern Virginia region. Our troopers are committed to doing everything we can to prevent such reckless behavior from occurring.”

Statter’s videos show what people did pre-bollards. Originally, defiant drivers crossed the highway at a nearly perpendicular angle to make the lane.

Orange barrels and cones didn’t deter some drivers. With surprising courtesy, one driver used the turn signal to cross three traffic lanes — blocking oncoming cars — and squeeze through an opening.

More barrels went up in shorter intervals, which did not stop this intrepid driver from creating an opening.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1283172582213197825

Instead of making these dangerous moves, the Transurban spokeswoman says drivers can access the Express Lanes at a different juncture.

“There is an option for drivers coming from the Pentagon City to safely get on the Express Lanes by taking the Pentagon/Eads Street ramp, and we encourage drivers to use that route, especially during rush hour when there is heavy traffic on the general-purpose lanes,” she said.

While enforcement plays a role in stopping the antics, Geller reminded drivers it is their job to follow the basic rules of the road.

“There is still a responsibility on the driver to make safe, legal and logical decisions when behind the wheel,” she said. “Backing up and/or driving the wrong way on an interstate ramp and/or in a travel lane put that driver and countless other motorists at risk of a crash and serious injury. The safety of our highways is a collaborative responsibility and one we hope the motoring public will help us improve, especially at this particular location.”

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Virginia State Police troopers engage in a chase on I-395 earlier this month (via Dave Statter/Twitter)

It’s been a common occurrence lately, documented by public safety watchdog Dave Statter: Virginia State Police engage in high-speed chases on I-395 but abandon them at the D.C. line.

That’s because VSP’s loose restrictions for initiating a chase 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 state police chase policy. But anyone being chased for a possible misdemeanor or traffic violation, who manages to reach D.C., is in the clear.

“Unless the violator’s offense is a felony, sworn employees will discontinue pursuit at the state line,” the policy says. “If the violator is being pursued in connection with a felony offense (in addition to felony eluding police), the pursuit may continue into the District of Columbia or any adjoining state except Kentucky with the approval of a supervisor.”

Asked about which types of incidents typically lead to troopers calling things off at the 14th Street Bridge, and which lead to chases continuing into the District, VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said “there’s no one-size-fits-all answer that I can provide.”

“In accordance with Virginia State Police policy, each pursuit is assessed on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “The trooper and supervisor will assess the pursuit based on the variety of factors that are known and unknown at every stage of the pursuit, which will then determine if/when it is in the best of the interest of the public to terminate a pursuit.”

Sometimes, of course, police are able to stop fleeing drivers before they enter the District. Statter posted video of state police stopping a vehicle and making an arrest with guns drawn on I-395 near the Pentagon this past weekend.

If VSP chases a suspect in Arlington County, local police can and have helped nab suspects, but Arlington County Police Department policy specifies officers can only give chase when there’s a serious crime involved. While both have jurisdiction on state highways in Arlington, VSP predominantly handles enforcement there, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says.

Arlington officers can only give chase if there is probable cause that a driver or occupant has committed a violent felony or an offense involving the use or threatened use of a firearm, or has warrants on file for either reason. Additionally, ACPD officers can give chase if the pursuit could “abate a danger of a substantial likelihood of death or serious bodily injury,” the policy reads.

When they reach county lines, officers don’t have to stop, but they should consider their “level of familiarity” with the area, per the policy.

While Arlington police will maintain a lookout for a vehicle that flees from them on traffic or minor charges — searching the area without giving chase — the only other recourse in the moment is to notify state police and other local and federal law enforcement agencies.

As for joining other pursuits, the ACPD policy says “officers shall not join in a pursuit initiated by another jurisdiction that enters Arlington County unless the driver or occupant is wanted for any of the above-listed offenses.”

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