main banner

Monday, January 26, 2015

Police station commanders talk crime and safety with neighborhood leaders

From the left: Capt. David Smith (Mason), Capt. Kathleen Sefchick (West Springfield), and Capt. Jeff Powell (Franconia).
The commanders of the three police districts that cover parts of Mason District – Mason, West Springfield, and Franconia – spoke about crime and safety issues Jan. 24 at the first session of Supervisor Penny Gross’ 2015 leadershipseminar series.

Gross said Fairfax County has one of the lowest crime rates in the country among counties of similar size, noting there were only 16 homicides last year, most of them related to domestic conflicts. [That’s twice as many as the eight homicides reported in 2013, however.]

Gross attributes the low crime rate to the focus on community policing and the effort to ensure the police force reflects the diversity of the community. One of the challenges currently facing the Fairfax County Police Department, she said, is filling vacancies in the face of a large wave of retirements.

In the Mason District, one of the major safety issues is the large number of pedestrian accidents in recent months, Gross said. Two pedestrians and one motorbike rider were killed by cars last fall, and several more pedestrians, including two children, were injured by cars.

Capt. David Smith, commander of the Mason Police Station, said the number of pedestrian accidents tend to rise in the fall when daylight savings ends and it’s dark during rush hour. Capt. Jeff Powell, commander of the Franconia station, noted that most of these accidents are the pedestrian’s fault – in many cases they are intoxicated or fail to use crosswalks.

The audience – mostly the presidents and officers of civic associations – expressed concerns about the following issues:
  • Street robberies seem to be on the increase. Smith calls these incidents, which usually occur between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., “crimes of opportunity,” with the victims usually intoxicated. He said he’s expanded the station’s bike team from three to nine officers and has them patrolling later at night with the goal of getting potential victims off the street. According to Powell, many of these robberies start as fights, with the winners taking things, like phones or neck chains, from the losers.
  • Speeding on Braddock Road is a problem, although a newly added striped parking lane and a temporary digital sign have been helpful. More crosswalks are needed throughout the district. Gross said VDOT has to approve the location of crosswalks and won’t put them in if the other side of the street is not a safe place to walk.
  • There have been a lot of loud house parties in the Lincolnia Park area, including a drive-by shooting during a party a few months ago. That incidence is still under investigation, said Smith, and it wasn’t a random shooting; the parties knew one another.
  • Members of the Potomac Pedalers bicycle club ride around North Springfield, ignoring stop signs and other traffic rules. Bicyclists are supposed to follow the same traffic rules as cars, Powell said.
  • What constitutes public drinking? A large crowd of people often drink in a front yard; there are children present and the group leaves dozens of empty beer bottles on the lawn. Drinking on private property is not a crime, although people can be arrested for drinking in public, Smith said.
The meeting also featured a presentation on the upcoming World Police and Fire Games, June 26-July 5. The games are hosted by Fairfax County, with events taking place throughout the region.

The games are expected to add $80 million to $90 million to the region’s economy. As many 40,000 people are expected attend, including at least 12,000 athletes from more than 70 countries, said Lt. James Travis. So far, 43 countries have registered athletes, and 6,500 hotel rooms have already been booked.

Some of the 61 events are standard athletic competitions, like running, swimming, and wrestling. Others are based on skills used on the job, such as racing on stairs, handling K-9s, and “ultimate firefighter.” All events are free to the public, but some are ticketed because of limited seating.

Martial arts competitions will be held in Annandale at the Ernst Center at Northern Virginia Community College, and softball will be at Wakefield Park.

The headquarters for the games will be at the Reston Town Center. That’s where the athletes will register and where most of them will be staying. The opening ceremony will be at RFK stadium in D.C., and the closing ceremony will be at Wolf Trap.

Travis said the organizers are creating a transportation network for the athletes. And while security will be a priority, “we want the games to be open and inviting.”

Fairfax 2015, the nonprofit organization formed to promote and manage the 2015 games, is seeking 4,000 volunteers. If you’re interested, there’s a volunteer sign-up form online.


  1. Here we are with a homicide rate that doubles in 2014 but Penny Gross spins that to we have one of the lowest crime rates for counties of similar size. Well that makes me feel better that our homicide rate doubled. It seems strange that it double the same year that the gates were opened to allow illegals to come here and our schools have exploded in population to the point of out of control. Hey, we have the lowest crime rate for a county this size.

    1. Ah yes. The homicide rate has doubled because of an immigration law that passed in 2013. Fairfax also had 16 homicides in 2012, how do you explain that? All the illegals went on vacation for a year in 2013 then came back?

    2. I've seen an increase of MS-13 gang graffiti around town. I've taken a picture of a few. I've noticed the increase since we let thousands of illegal teens in last year ...coincidence? I also have a relative who works at the TX border. Not all these teens coming in are innocent

  2. With reference to VDOT not placing crosswalks in areas not safe to walk...ever noticed there's a crosswalk, including walk/don't walk signs, at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Lincolnia Rd? If one chose to cross Columbia Pike there, it leads to no sidewalk or cleared area to walk. Think this was done when new street light poles were erected.

  3. According to Capt. Jeff Powell, commander of the Franconia station, most of the accidents involving pedestrians were because the pedestrians were drunk or failed to use crosswalks. Talk about blaming the victims. Does the same rationale apply to the two children who were hit by cars? Later in the article it says there is a need for more crosswalks in the county, so perhaps the lack of safe crossing places could have something to do with the problem. I recently returned from a visit to Massachusetts and I was impressed by the culture of yielding to pedestrians. If there is a problem with pedestrians not using crosswalks perhaps the policy could monitor the most dangerous intersections and issue a few tickets for jaywalking or motorists for failing to yield.

  4. I would like to see these cycle cops in my neighborhood. Have never seen one in the 20 years that I have lived here.

  5. Where is PFC Biggs?

  6. Where is Patrolman Fife when you need him?