The crimes in Mason District that have gotten the most attention from the police this summer include gang activity, robbery, and prostitution, reports Capt. David Smith, commander of the Mason Police District.
Smith and 2nd Lt. J.M. Flynn, chief of the Criminal Investigations Section at the Mason station, gave an update on the local crime situation at the station’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting Sept. 2.
Smith didn’t have any new information about the homicide in the Culmore area of Bailey’s Crossroads early Monday morning, other than to say police officers are knocking on doors and collecting information. It could have been related to robbery or a domestic conflict, as well as gangs, he said.
According to Flynn, the biggest complaint this summer was about gang graffiti. While MS-13 is still active, much of the local gang activity is community-based, focusing on street robberies and drugs, with gang members using graffiti to mark their territory, mostly in Culmore and at the Fairmont Gardens apartments in Annandale.
The station’s anti-gang initiative – aimed at having patrol officers in the neighborhoods gathering intelligence and getting to know gang members – is paying off. There haven’t been many significant gang incidents recently, Flynn said, and having those contacts is helpful when there is a crime.
Police officers can seek permission to pat down an individual who appears suspicious – by wearing gang colors, for example, or having a history of gang affiliation and weapons possession, or if they “present themselves in a certain way,” Flynn said. If the individual refuses, the officer can do a search if necessary.
Prostitution mostly occurs in motels, now that brothels operating in apartments in the Culmore area have been pretty much been shut down, he said. In most cases, prostitution is run by small-time pimps from New York catering to the local Hispanic population and doesn’t appear to be gang related.
The armed robberies of pedestrians late at night were “opportunity crimes,” Flynn said. The victims were usually intoxicated, and those crimes don’t seem to be related, because the descriptions given by victims have been different. “We’re not seeing a major uptick” in these kinds of crimes, he said.
Flynn recounted several success stories: In July, police arrested a suspect from Maryland in the armed robberies at four gas stations in the Lincolnia area. During a stakeout, police saw a suspicious car circling a gas station, stopped the driver for an unrelated reason, and found evidence tying the suspect to the robberies.
The airbag thefts that were common last year have pretty much stopped, Flynn said, since the arrest of the leader of a crew that was stealing airbags and other car parts and fencing them in Maryland. Only four cars, all at the Lakeside Village Apartments in Falls Church, were hit this summer. Also, he noted, complaints about a “chronic peeper” who was spying on women in the locker room of an Arlington gym have stopped since an arrest was made.
Many of the concerns brought up by the public at the CAC meeting were about speeding and parking problems. With the school year underway, Smith said he’ll be focusing on pedestrian enforcement, including encouraging people to use crosswalks. Also, he noted, “My goal going forward is to ramp up DWI enforcement.”