Newsletter

After being overwhelmed by behavioral health-related calls for service, the Alexandria Co Response Team (ACORP) pilot program is being expanded.

The pilot program soft-launched last fall, with the ACORP team (a licensed behavioral health clinician and specially trained officer) responding to 145 (16%) of behavioral health-related calls for service between October 2021 and February 2022, according to a report that goes before City Council on Tuesday (May 10).

The collaboration between the Alexandria Police Department and the city’s Department of Community and Human Services has been deemed a success by Council, which approved two more ACORP teams in the city’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

In 14 incidents where an arrest could have been made, the ACORP team diverted 10 of them (71%) from arrests, according to the report.

However, the ACORP team has been unable to respond to approximately 85% of the 958 total behavioral-health related calls because they were off duty (63% of calls) or busy with another call (21% of calls).

The team has also been hampered by a 40-hour-per-week schedule, and after a few modifications, now work between Monday and Thursday, from noon to 10 p.m., “to better address the high number of calls consistently coming in on Mondays,” according to the report.

The overwhelming majority of behavioral health-related calls for service were in the 22304 Zip code (317 calls, or 33%) and in 22314 (253 calls, or 26%).

Of the 145 behavioral health calls for service ACORP responded to between October 2021 and February 2022:

  • 52% were for unusual behavior or threats/ harm to self
  • 45% of the calls were resolved on-scene (45%)
  • 13% of calls that ACORP responded to resulted in involuntary transport to the hospital

These two incidents were mentioned in the report:

ACORP was dispatched to a scene involving a person engaging in suicidal behavior, with a knife in his hand, who had been cutting himself. Several units jointly responded to the call since there was a weapon involved, so there was a heavy police presence on the scene. As the ACORP team was trying to engage with the individual, they were surrounded by police officers (due to the imminent danger). The individual shared that he did not trust the police due to previous negative encounters and threatened to harm anyone coming close to him physically. He did say that he would talk to the ACORP co-responder (Megan) alone, but given that he was still a threat, the co-responding officer stayed in the room, and the other law enforcement officers were asked to slowly, one-by-one, step outside briefly. At that time, the ACORP team was successfully able to de-escalate this individual, get him to hand over the weapon, and voluntarily go with them to the hospital for further assessment and treatment. The individual got the help that he needed. This situation also increased trust between law enforcement and the co-response team and between the individual and law enforcement.

The ACORP team responded to a scene involving an individual in distress following a domestic dispute in the early Fall of 2021. The ACORP team successfully de-escalated this individual on-scene and referred them for additional services. A few months later, after not hearing from this man, ACORP responded to a call for service involving a different person who was heavily intoxicated and experiencing suicidal ideation. They arrived on scene, assessed the situation, and stepped into the hallway to discuss a strategy. While in the hallway, the man ACORP served months prior appeared and shared how grateful he was to the ACORP team for helping him get connected with services and as a result, leave a tumultuous relationship and achieve a better quality of life. This man heard the individual in distress behind the door, whom he knew. He was able to speak with his neighbor in distress and share how much he himself had been helped by the ACORP team. This first-hand experience helped the distressed man trust the ACORP team, agree to speak with them, and ultimately get connected to the services he needed.

 

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(Updated 4:50 p.m.) Under President Donald Trump, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch says that America resembled repressive regimes she’d seen overseas.

On Monday (May 9), Yovanovitch spoke about her memoir “Lessons From The Edge” at Pat Miller Square in the heart of Del Ray. The book documents her 33-year Foreign Service career that culminated with her being fired by Trump as the ambassador to Ukraine and her congressional testimony during his first impeachment.

“When I came back to the United States, I experienced… the smear campaign that was launched against me and other things,” Yovanovich said, “that felt like I was seeing some of the same things in the United States that I’d seen overseas, that we had a president who was using his office for personal gain, and the presidency is the highest office in the land.”

Yovanovitch worked for five presidents throughout her career, and began her ambassadorship of Ukraine under President Barack Obama in 2016. She served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and retired from the State Department in 2020. She is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a non-resident fellow at Georgetown University.

“Fast forward to the insurrection on January 6, and it was really very sobering that one of the things that I realized was we do have strong institutions, but they need us as much as we need them,” Yovanovich said. “We need people who are not just smart and competent, but people who are ethical, who work with integrity, and who will do the work of the people in the United States. And again, do it with integrity. When asked to do something that is wrong, they will say no, not because they are just loyal to the president of the the United States, they’ll say no because they are critical thinkers.”

Despite her disbelief over Trump’s election, for two years under the Trump administration she was largely left alone, she wrote. That was until 2019, when she said she became the target of a smear campaign by the administration to get her fired. She wrote that oligarchs and corrupt government officials will use disinformation to destroy competitors so effectively that the lies become more believable than the truth, and that the same tactics were being employed against her from Washington, D.C.

“I was being hung out to dry,” Yovanovitch wrote. “I had served five previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat. I had never seen anything like this.”

Five months after being removed from her post, Yovanovitch testified before the House Intelligence Committee during Trump’s first impeachment. As she testified, then-President Trump tweeted about her disparagingly, and Yovanovitch said it was “very intimidating.”

In her book, Yavonovich describes herself as an introvert, a behind-the-scenes operator who, before 2019, “never would have believed that anyone other than my family would find my story of interest,” she wrote. “But the reaction to my testimony changed that, and so I started writing, thinking that perhaps others might have something to gain from the story of my Foreign Service journey.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that Alexandria is lucky to have public servants like Yovanovitch as a resident.

“The fragility of our democracy requires it that women and men are willing to stand up and defend it and defend it with courage,” Wilson said. “Oftentimes that integrity and that courage is buried somewhere deep in a bureaucracy that never sees the light of day. Nobody ever understands what actually happened. But sometimes that courage is required, not only to stand up to some of the most totalitarian regimes in the world, (but) sometimes even to the leader of the free world.”

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Students unveil the Alexandria City High School marquee, June 23, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

It was criticized by many for taking too long, but now Alexandria City Public Schools is winning awards for the renaming of Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

On Friday (May 5), ACPS announced that it was awarded the Silver Prize in the National School Boards Association Magna Awards program for The Identity Project campaign, as well as a 2021 Gold Medallion Award from the National School Public Relations Association.

“We are excited that the ACPS Identity Project has been honored with a Magna Award,”  School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said in a statement. “This recognizes the contributions from our students, families, staff and community who came together to work on this historic change. With student voices at the center, we mobilized to educate our community about the past and to chart an inclusive path for the future. We now have school names that are reflective of the values of Alexandria City Public Schools.”

Alexandria City High School is the largest high school in Virginia. The school was previously named T.C. Williams High School for 50 years, and became known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which is the story of the 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity.

T.C. was named after segregationist Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was the superintendent of ACPS for 30 years. Williams worked against the integration of schools, and required Black students who wanted admission to previously all-white schools go through an application process. Only 75 Black students (about 3%) were allowed to transfer to formerly white schools by the time Williams announced his retirement in 1962, and that was three years after the city officially desegregated schools.

The new name of Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School is unveiled by students on June 22, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Naomi L. Brooks Elementary was previously named Matthew Maury Elementary School for nearly a century, after the Confederate leader and oceanographer. Brooks was a beloved teacher for 25 years at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School.

It took more than a year to solicit name proposals from the community and for the School Board to whittle them down to replace the names of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School. The schools were officially renamed last summer, putting an end to an issue that residents tried to address for decades.

The project was deemed so successful that Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. highlighted it in a book he recently co-wrote with Georgetown University professor Douglas Reed: “Getting Into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-racist School System.

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May is on track to be the second worst month of the year for new cases of Covid.

As of May 9 (Monday), reported cases climbed to 32,237, an increase of 550 cases since this time last week. The seven-day average of cases is 78.6, up 68.7 last week, and the seven-day positivity rate for Covid tests is 12.4%, up from 10.2%.

The number of COVID-related deaths remains at 188. There have been 632 new cases reported so far in May, which is nearly half of the cases reported in April.

This year started with Covid levels at an all-time high, with a record-setting 12,822 cases reported, followed by 1,227 cases in February. There were only 593 cases reported in March, and during that month City Council loosened its mask and distancing requirements after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved the City’s community level from High to Low.

There were 1,488 new cases reported in April, and the CDC downgraded the city’s community level to Medium.

Fake Covid tests

The Alexandria Health Department is warning the public about fake Covid tests. According to AHD:

Beware of Counterfeit COVID-19 Tests

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns the public about counterfeit at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests being distributed or used in the United States. Counterfeit tests are not authorized, cleared, or approved by the FDA for distribution or use but are made to look like real, FDA-authorized tests.The reliability of unauthorized tests has not been adequately established, so the risk of false results is very high. For reliable, FDA-authorized tests, order up to four at a time for free from USPS, pick up a free test at a participating Alexandria Public Library, or find other trusted testing options at alexandriava.gov/COVIDTesting.

VDH reported the following new cases this month in Alexandria:

  • 36 new cases on May 1
  • 46 new cases on May 2
  • 47 new cases on May 3
  • 106 new cases on May 4
  • 82 new cases on May 5
  • 79 new cases on May 6
  • 113 new cases on May 7
  • 62 new cases on May 8
  • 61 new cases on May 9

Vaccine stats

  • There are 23,068 unvaccinated Alexandria residents
  • About 77% of residents (118,662 people) are fully vaccinated
  • 85% (130,812 people) of residents got at least one dose
  • 62,648 residents got booster shots

In Alexandria City Public Schools, there have been 836 cases reported since Dec. 1. Of those, 713 are children and 142 are staff, but the numbers on the school system’s dashboard don’t add up.

The city remains in a state of emergency until June 30.

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A 16-year-old male was beaten up and robbed by a gang of five teenagers in the Bradlee Shopping Center on (Thursday) April 28, according to Alexandria Police.

The victim was jumped and robbed of cash by a gang of five male juveniles. The incident occurred at around 3 p.m. as the victim walked on the sidewalk between 3672 and 3676 King Street in the shopping center, according to police.

“Money was taken from the victim, but due to a witness intervening the money was recovered at the scene,” Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett said.

The incident follows the September 21, 2021, shooting of a juvenile at a nearby McDonald’s, which is a short distance from Alexandria City High School. A juvenile was arrested at the restaurant a month later after a fight where a man was injured.

No arrests have been made, and the relationship between the victim and suspects is uncertain, police said.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police do no suspect foul play behind a sudden death last week in the city’s Arlandria neighborhood.

On April 27 (Wednesday), a 55-year-old man was found dead in the doorway of a building in the 3900 block of Mount Vernon Avenue at around 6:45 a.m. The area from Executive Avenue to Russell Road was temporarily shut down while police investigated.

The man was identified as Julio Rivera, and police said that there was no trauma on his body indicating foul play.

Via Google Maps

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Alexandria City Council unanimously adopted City Manager Jim Parajon’s $839.2 million fiscal year 2023 budget on Wednesday night (May 4), and despite giving all city employees raises, Mayor Justin Wilson says inflation will likely mean more raises in future budgets.

“We’re staring into a significant inflationary environment that pinches our employees very hard, just like it pinches everyone hard,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have to continue to have this conversation every year about how we make sure we invest in the level of compensation and benefits required to not only attract but retain the best and the brightest in the city.”

The budget is an 8.9% increase from the FY 2022 budget, and includes a 7%  raise for firefighters, medics and fire marshals; a 6% raise for Police Department and Sheriff’s Office staff and a 4.5% raise for general city employees. That’s in addition to annual merit increases for city staff.

City residents can expect to pay an additional $445, or 6.5%, in real estate taxes, although Parajon’s budget maintains the current tax rate at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value. There are a number of other new fees, such as a $294 stormwater utility fee, which is a $14 increase over last year’s doubling of the fee from $140 to $280 to shore up flooding issues.

Council also approved Wilson’s proposal to increase annual residential and commercial refuse collection fees to $500 citywide (from $411 for commercial and $484.22 for residential collection). The $315,000 from the collected fees will fund a curbside food waste collection pilot.

This was the first budget for Parajon, who started work in January.

“This is a team effort and the fact we were able to put together what I think is a budget that truly is going to help a lot of people in the city,” Parajon said.

Councilman Kirk McPike said that he was proud to raise employee compensation, and that there is more work to do. McPike and his fellow new Council members Sarah Bagley and Alyia Gaskins were supportive of a 10% raise for AFD staff in February, as the department has struggled with recruitment, retention and compensation for years.

“I think that as a council we’re committed to doing more to help our firefighters and our police have the support that they need to give us the protection that the people of Alexandria deserve,” McPike said.

The budget also fully meet the requests of the Alexandria City Public Schools budget, which includes a 10.25% raise for teachers.

Council also unanimously approved the 10-year $2.73 billion Capital Improvement Program, which includes $497.8 million in investments for a new high school, renovations at 1705 N. Beauregard Street and two elementary school expansions.

The budget moves nearly $800,000 in Alexandria Police Department funding for School Resource Officers at Alexandria City Public Schools to a reserve account to fund six full time employees.

The budget includes:

  • $1.85 million for police body worn cameras
  • Expansion to Dash line 30
  • $95,000 to hire a social equity officer
  •  An additional Alexandria Co-Response team (ACORP), costing $277,000
  • $200,000 in reserve funding to support Metro Stage construction
  • Purchase of 4850 Mark Center Drive — the future home of the Department of Community and Human Services, the Alexandria Health Department and a West End service center

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Senior mastiff mix Brown spent the last 13 years perfecting the art of snuggling, and he can’t wait to show off his skills.

The light brown-colored male mastiff mix is up for adoption with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

“Brown is an easygoing fellow who’s not asking much of our his future family,” AWLA spokesperson Gina Hardter told ALXnow. “He loves leisurely walks, comfy bed and all the ear scratches you have to offer. Bonus points if you let dogs on the couch!”

Brown’s adoption fee has been pre-paid by a generous donor. Learn more at AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt/By-Appointment.

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An Alexandria man was robbed of his wallet by a gang of four males on the evening of Sunday, April 24.

At around 10 p.m., the victim was confronted by four males outside in the 3800 block of Florence Drive in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria. The victim fell to the ground during the ordeal, but was not injured, according to police.

No weapons were used during the incident, and the victim’s wallet and an undisclosed sum of cash were stolen.

No arrests have been made in connection to this incident.

Anyone with information on this incident is urged to call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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There are a number of ghost signs on buildings all over Old Town, and a home to one of them just went on the market for $1.1 milion.

That’s a far cry from the $414,000 that 601 S. St. Asaph Street was sold for in 2014 — and the $11,093 it sold for in 1962.

The value of the property doubled after a comprehensive renovation project in 2015. While peeling away paint on the exterior of the building, a large and faded painted advertisement was discovered. The town home was built in 1842, and was a grocery store during the early 20th century.

The sign reads “W.L. WILSON GROCER/COAL WOOD/CHEW/GRAPE.”

“The building was initially built as a residence in the historically African-American neighborhood of the Hill, but changed uses over time,” the Alexandria Archaeology Museum said on Facebook. “W.L. Wilson is likely William L. Wilson who is listed in the 1904 City Directory as operating a grocery store here with his brother Wadsworth. Grape Chew was a type of chewing tobacco manufactured by the R.A. Patterson Tobacco Company of Richmond.”

The two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home went on the market on April 28, and is owned by former Washington Nationals broadcaster and MLB player F.P. Santangelo.

Via Facebook

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