|From the left: Capt. David Smith (Mason), Capt. Kathleen Sefchick (West Springfield), and Capt. Jeff Powell (Franconia).|
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.]
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.