The Arlington County Police Department this week hosted the first of four community forums to answer residents' questions and discuss crime trends.
After going more than two years without a homicide in Arlington, this summer by comparison could have seemed quite violent, Police Chief Doug Scott said. So he wanted to make himself, various members of his command staff and community police officers as accessible as possible.
"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that after four homicides in a few weeks' period that you have nothing to worry about," Scott told about 20 residents Wednesday night at the Madison Community Center.
"The two years that we went without a homicide? We were really, really lucky."
Police divide the county into three districts. The first district, which was this week's focus, includes most of the neighborhoods north of Arlington Boulevard except Lyon Village, Clarendon-Courthouse and Rosslyn. It encompasses about 82,000 people and represents about 31 percent of the department's calls for service.
Overall, crime in that district is down. Violent crime so far in 2012 is about 15 percent less than what was reported at this time last year, according to statistics provided by District Commander Karen Herchenroder.
Rape is the only exception, with 10 cases reported this year versus six in 2011. But this year's number reflects one victim who was raped by multiple people, Herchenroder said. And for both years, all of the rapes in the first district were committed by a known suspect — a family member, friend or acquaintance. That means there were zero instances of someone being attacked by a stranger.
Property crimes in the first district are down about 4 percent over this time last year.
Much of the crime that does occur is preventable, Herchenroder said. Always look your home and vehicle. Lock valuables in your trunk. When you go to a gym, leave your valuables in your trunk. When running alone on a trail, don't put earbuds in both ears: Auxiliary Lt. Heather Hurlock cited instances where women jogging listening to music didn't hear officers who were right beside them. Keep the serial number of your bicycle handy and be sure to use U-locks. And always report crimes immediately — don't wait.
"If you can help us, we can help you," Herchenroder said.
Police fielded a variety of questions Wednesday night — from whether the county provides their bulletproof vests (it does) to staffing levels, from scams against the elderly to police presence in and around Metro stations.
"We're always looking for trends," Scott said, adding that information about the times and types of crimes that have recently occurred is passed along to officers on almost a daily basis.
The Arlington County Police Department has an authorized strength of 358 officers — down slightly from what it was 10 years ago.
"They do a great job with what they have," said resident Ken Boysworth. "I think the county should step up on the staffing. When you have limited resources, you get limited results."
Violent crime spiked this summer with a murder-suicide in July, which was soon followed by the death of a beloved jewelry store owner on Columbia Pike. August brought a double homicide that remains unsolved. Detectives feel "confident" that in "due time" they'll be able to make an arrest in that case, Scott said.
This week, police announced that the death of an 87-year-old man found Saturday is considered "suspicious." Scott and his team offered reassurance, but no specific new details about that case Wednesday night.
The next meetings will take place:
- Oct. 24 (District 2 - South): 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 830 S. 23rd St.
- Oct. 25 (District 3): 7 p.m. at Arlington Career Center, 816 S. Walter Reed Drive
- Nov. 1 (District 2 - North): 7 p.m. at Key Elementary School, 2300 Key Blvd., multi-purpose room
Police are directing questions and concerns to the three district commanders:
- District 1: Capt. Karen Herchenroder, 703-228-4062, email@example.com
- District 2: Capt. Andy Penn, 703-228-4327, firstname.lastname@example.org
- District 3: Capt. Brett Butler, 703-228-4097, email@example.com