Alexandria, VA

If there’s one thing that will annoy many Alexandrians more than all else, it’s calling the southeastern area of Fairfax County across Cameron Run “Alexandria.”

Dave Statter, a former reporter and volunteer firefighter who runs a fire and EMS news website, went on a rant this week about the distinction after Fairfax County Police, and later news outlets, referred to the controversy over a police officer detaining a driver to be handed over to ICE as having taken place in Alexandria.

The area from the Huntington Metro area to Mount Vernon is often referred to as Alexandria. City of Alexandria (the real Alexandria) spokesman Craig Fifer said Fairfax County does not officially refer to any portion of the county as Alexandria, though the term “Alexandria section of the county” appeared in a Fairfax County Police Department press release about the ICE incident.

The source of the confusion is that the U.S. Postal Service gives some Fairfax residents and businesses in the area Alexandria mailing addresses. In the late 1800s there were attempts by Alexandria to annex these parts of Fairfax, but they withdrew back across Cameron Run. By 1871, the dividing line was established as Cameron Run.

City pride aside, the distinction can also have fiscal implications. In 2009, an audit found a Target store in Fairfax was inadvertently sending $1 million in sales tax to the City of Alexandria instead of Fairfax, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s important for residents, businesses, the news media and the Postal Service to accurately identify locations,” Fifer said. “When an area is referred to as ‘Alexandria’ that is not actually in the City of Alexandria, people become confused about which government agencies serve them, which services are available, where to get involved in civic affairs, and even where to pay taxes.”

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