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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Government, police, nonprofits featured at Mason District Open House

Pfc. Brian Buckholtz and MPO Tom Eggers of the Fairfax County Police Department's bomb squad with bomb-sniffing dog, Marko.

Visitors to the Mason District Open House Saturday got a chance to meet police dogs; learn about Fairfax County government programs; explore the SWAT truck; chat with Supervisor Penny Gross, Rep. Gerry Connolly, and Mason police commander Gun Lee; and jump on a moon bounce.
The open house at the Mason District Government Center featured representatives from various Fairfax County government agencies, police programs, and nonprofit organizations.

The Rotary Club of Bailey's Crossroads raffled off this car, a 1966 Mustang.
Johan Gomez of Alexandria takes a ride in the Convincer, a crash simulator, which demonstrates the value of wearing seatbelts.
Among police programs on display: the SWAT Team, Bomb Unit, Police Underwater Search and Recovery, K9 Corps, and False Alarm Reduction Unit.

Barricades are the most intense aspects of the job, said Carolina Oliver, a patrol officer in Mount Vernon, who does month-long rotations with the SWAT Team. “You should always be a little bit scared. That’s what keeps you on your toes,” said Oliver, the only woman on the team.

Rocky Rakan, a first-grader at Glen Forest Elementary School, explores the SWAT truck.
Debra Olson, a civilian employee of the Police Department’s False Alarm Reduction Unit, which is aimed at cutting back on the number of police responses to false burglar alarms at commercial and residential locations, said the number of false alarms has been cut to 15,165 in 2001, compared to 45,000 when the unit was established in 2001.
“We want to keep those calls for service down,” Olson says, by educating the public about preventing and canceling false alarms, which are often caused by contractors, cleaning services, relatives, kids, wind, or broken alarm systems. Alarms have to be registered with the police. If the police have to respond to a false alarm for the third time in a 12-month period, the property is fined $100; the fee goes up for each additional false alarm.

Rita Taggart was at the Open House to urge the public to get involved with the Mason District Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC), a group that advises the police department. The committee meets once a month, and meetings are open to the public. Another way for the public to learn about the police is by participating in the Citizens Police Academy.

Tracey Ryan of the Citizens Police Academy.
Among others at the open house: Robert Lazaro Jr. of Inova Health Systems was promoting the value of eating healthy, locally produced food. Scott Pearson, the Mason representative on the Tree Commission, brought his pet tree, a dwarf Alberta spruce named Lord Fairfax, promote the value of preserving existing trees and planting new ones. George Lamb of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, had information about effective stormwater practices, and representatives from the Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance had information on proper storage, parking, and other issues.

LaTanja Jones (left) of the Bailey's Community Center, and Deidre Light, of the Bailey's Senior Center.

Reg and Kim Wayland of Windows Plus.

LaTanja Jone, of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, encouraged people to take advantage of the Bailey’s Community Center. Located at 5920 Summers Lane, Falls Church, the center hosts a teen program with after-school activities, a computer clubhouse, basketball games, and game nights. The center also has free workshops on financial literacy, a free tutoring program for elementary school students on Saturday mornings, and basketball and aerobics for adults.

A representative from the Lifetime Learning Institute, a nonprofit associated with Northern Virginia Community College, was at the open house, too. The institute offers classes to seniors in history, crafts, personal development, science, religion, culture, nature, and other topics.

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