If you see someone suspicious, or something just doesn’t look right, it’s best to report it to the police – even if turns out be harmless. That’s the message law enforcement officers stressed at the Mason Police District Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting April 7.
That’s also how police were able to catch the Wossen Assaye, a federal prisoner who had escaped from Inova Fairfax Hospital March 31, and led police on a nine-hour manhunt through the Annandale area. A woman on a Metrobus thought in D.C. recognized Wossen Assaye from news reports and called the cops.
Matos he blames some recent homicides on “alcohol-induced rages,” but wouldn’t confirm that was what happened in the murder last week at a vacant apartment in the Fairmont Gardens apartment complex in Annandale. The victim, Jose Ramirez Guardado, was known throughout the Hispanic immigrant community, and both the victim and suspect, Ubaldo Lopez Yanez, had been squatting in the same apartment. Matos said the Mason Police District plans to implement stronger alcoholic prevention strategies.
Detective Brian Ames described some recent arrests by Mason District police officers. On April 6, four men were arrested for robbery after they stole a cash register from a Sunoco station on Leesburg Pike and took off in a red Jeep.
On the night of April 3, police arrested a woman for breaking into lockers at the Gold’s Gym off Route 50 in Seven Corners. The suspect had a bolt cutter in a gym bag, along with credit cards, cash, and cell phones, and might have been involved with other similar incidents at other gyms. .
Police also arrested suspects for a series of vehicle larcenies in the vicinity of Graham Road. The suspects had been getting into unlocked cars or busting windows and taking cash, prepaid cards, and gift cards – and might have also been responsible for similar crimes in the Barcroft area.
Identify theft has been a huge problem across the nation, as well as in Mason district, said Matos. He’s also seen several recent “distraction thefts.” As an example, a suspect asks a grocery shopper to help him read a label on a can, while an accomplice takes money out of her purse.
Also at the meeting, Master Police Officer Pete Davila, lead control tactics instructor at the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy, gave a presentation on personal safety.
When faced with a potentially dangerous situation, Davila says there are three courses of action, he identified as “ABC – avoid, backtrack, and confront.”
An example of avoiding a problem is crossing the street. If that’s not possible, backtrack, by walking out the same you came in. Finally, there’s confrontation, which could involve reasoning or negotiating, as well as a physical action. “If you’re going to do that, be committed to it,” Davila says.
The key to staying safe is paying attention to one’s surroundings, Davila said. As a cop, he scans passersby for such clues as bulky clothing, which could indicate a hidden weapon, and facial scars that show someone’s been in a lot of fights.
Trust your intuition when someone seems suspicious even, or especially, when they’re being nice and charming, he said. One trick bad buys use is “forced teaming,” which happens when a person offers help and inserts himself into your problems – by saying, “we have a flat tire,” for example.
“Anyone trying to be overly charming may be trying to control you,” Davila warned. A man approaching a teenage girl in a shopping mall, showering her with compliments, and promising her a modeling career is up to no good, for example.
Another trick is “typecasting,” which he describes as a slight criticism aimed at engaging a victim. For example, a predator might tell someone victim, “don’t be so snobby,” encouraging the victim to defend herself. “Don’t acknowledge them. Don’t give them that power,” he said.
When a predator tells a victim he did something for her – like fixing a flat tire or taking her out to dinner – and now expects something in return, that is “loan sharking,” Davila said. Don’t fall for that: “You don’t owe them anything. You have a right to set boundaries. Remind yourself that you didn’t ask for help.”
If a predator says, “I promise I won’t hurt you” and doesn’t take “no” for answer, that is “very significant,” Davila says. “‘No’ must never be negotiated.” He urges parents to talk about these situations with their sons, as well as their daughters, and recommends The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, for more advice on how to deal with dangerous situations.
CAC meetings are open to the public, and the police urge more people to come.The meetings are the first Tuesday of the month, at 7 p.m., at the Mason Government Center.