Capt. Carol Wilhite, the new commander of the Mason Police District, told the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) April 2 she plans to initiate two campaigns—to promote pedestrian safety and to crack down on fraudulent solicitors known as “woodchucks.”
Wilhite, the former assistant captain of the Fair Oaks Police District, succeeded Gun Lee in March. Lee was appointed commander of the major crimes division in the Fairfax County Police Department’s (FCPD) Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Wilhite wants to address pedestrian safety by cracking down on crosswalk violations and related issues. She said there’s been a 71 percent increase in fatal accidents involving pedestrians from the previous year, and in the vast majority of cases, the pedestrian was at fault.
Woodchucks go door-to-door seeking jobs cutting wood, trimming trees, or other home repairs—and sometimes take advantage of the elderly by taking their money and not doing the work they agreed to do. “They come and go so fast, people don’t have any recourse,” Wilhite said. She cited one example of a woodchuck who was supposed to repave a driveway but only poured oil on it. It looked good for a couple of days, and by the time the homeowner wised up, he was long gone.
|The Ford Police Interceptor|
Wilhite urged residents to call the police if they think there are unscrupulous solicitors in their neighborhood. That way, the police will have a record of who’s been spotted in case one of these guys is implicated in a crime later. “The more intelligence we gather, the better,” she said.
“Being a solicitor is not a crime,” said Lt. Archie Pollard. But people going door to door are supposed to have a solicitor’s license. He said there have been instances where a solicitor engages with a homeowner working in a front yard while his partner breaks in the back door. Whilhite recalled one incident where this happened, and the homeowner’s daughter was at work watching her “puppy cam” while she noticed a strange man in the background.
The police also want to hear about vanloads of people spreading throughout a neighborhood selling magazines. In many cases, these people have felony warrants from other states.
“I’m still getting my feet wet,” learning about the particular issues in Mason, Wilhite told the CAC. She said she started with the FCPD in 1990 at the Franconia station. Since then, she’s had experience working on credit card fraud and larceny at Springfield Mall, investigating police applicants in the personnel office, conducting background checks in the polygraph office, and working the midnight shift at the Mount Vernon station. She has had stints in the property evidence section and Internal Affairs Bureau before her most recent assignment at Fair Oaks.
Also at the meeting, Charlie Bond, director of the FCPD property and logistics office gave the CAC a look at Fairfax County’s new police cars.
The department is bidding farewell to what he called “old reliable,” the Crown Victoria, which Ford stopped making in 2011. After reviewing the Dodge Charger and Chevy Caprice, FCPD selected the Ford Police Interceptor sedan, a version of the Ford Taurus modified for law enforcement, and the Ford Interceptor Utility, a modified version of the Explorer.
FCPD will phase in the new cars over the next six years or so as the Crown Vics currently in use need to be replaced. FCPD ordered 127 for fiscal year 2013, and they should be arriving in late April or early May, Bond said. FCPD has a fleet of 1,500 vehicles, including seized vehicles.The Mason Police District has 105.
In selecting new police cars, FCPD looked at safety, performance, and cost, Bond said. Officers tested the cars on the driving range at the police training center and found the Interceptor was best in handling, braking, and driving in inclement weather. It had the best mileage, offered the best value, and had the least damage in crash tests.
The cost of the new vehicles, including after-market parts and labor, ranges from $37,300 for an unmarked sedan to $43,000 for a utility vehicle with police markings. The new vehicles will have rear back-up cameras and dashboard cameras. The old police cars will be stripped, decommissioned, and sold in an online auction.