A 33-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond for stealing a car in the West End last month and being a fugitive of justice.
The woman that he lives with in Old Town also admitted to police that she forged a $300 check that the suspect gave her earlier this year, although she has not yet been charged.
The black Nissan Altima was stolen from a parking lot in the Parkstone Alexandria apartments (3001 Park Center Drive) during the overnight hours of September 7. It was found two days later a block away from where the suspect lives in an Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority home in the 3200 block of S. 28th Street.
Fingerprints in the car were matched to the suspect, and police discovered that he lives with a woman under investigation of forging a check for $300 from a stolen Nissan Juke last May, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Police contacted the female suspect, and she was escorted by the male suspect to an ARHA office at 401 Wythe Street. There, she was interviewed alone by police and admitted that her roommate “provided her a stolen check which she then used to fraudulently withdraw $300 from the victim’s account.”
The woman has not been charged and the case remains under investigation, according to police.
Police then called the male suspect on October 13 and he agreed to an interview at Alexandria Police headquarters, but never showed up.
He was arrested on November 2 and charged with receiving/buying stolen goods and being a fugitive from justice for missing two court appearances after being charged with stealing a car last year.
He is currently being held without bond and has two court dates next month.
Even though it’s just three blocks away, Heather Lesley doesn’t let her teenage daughter walk to the Braddock Road Metro station to meet her when she gets back from work.
“I don’t feel comfortable letting her do that anymore,” Lesley told ALXnow. “My neighbor has bullet holes in the brick wall of their home.”
Ever since the pandemic started, Lesley has noticed an uptick in violent crimes in her neighborhood in the Parker Gray section of the city, and it was only three weeks ago that she called the police after hearing four gunshots. She’s a U.S. Air Force veteran with two kids and her husband is deployed overseas with the Army until next year and is now considering moving from the area.
“I was in bed watching a movie, with two teenagers downstairs,” Lesley said. “I went to my back window and I couldn’t see anything, because last summer a man got shot and made his way to our mailbox area in our homeowners association, and that’s where EMTs found him, so I knew to look for something.”
The Alexandria Police Department’s strategy to combat the uptick in violent activity is to increase their presence in the area, and Lesley and her neighbors have noticed more APD cruisers parked at the Post Office at 1100 Wythe Street. Police are also asking for information from those who have witnessed some of these incidents to call 703-746-4444 or 911 in an emergency.
“Clearly we are concerned about the uptick in firearm-related incidents in Parker Gray/Old Town, and around the City,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “The Police Department has had increased presence, both marked and unmarked in the neighborhoods for the past several weeks and that will continue.”
According to a community crime map, there have been five aggravated assaults in Old Town this month alone, dozens of “other” assaults, and two residential burglaries. Also this month, Wilson appealed to the police to do something about an increase in vehicle thefts.
There have been reports of four shootings in Old Town since July 9. There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17 and a violent carjacking on Euille Street on July 14. One suspect was arrested after a July 11 shooting, although police would not release their identity since it would impede the investigation. In June, a man drove himself to the hospital after being shot in the 700 block of North Fayette Street.
As previously reported, there was also a crime spree in the city during the height of the pandemic during a reduction of police presence. Additionally, on March 31, a 17-year-old was shot in what police suspect was a targeted attack. The victim was playing basketball on Tancil Court and his mother later refused to let him talk to police out of fear for his safety, according to police records.
Many of these incidents have occurred within a mile of each other, sometimes within blocks.
On July 30, Police Chief Michael L. Brown conducted an in-person community meeting at Charles Houston Recreation Center to talk about the incidents. He was joined by Wilson and City Manager Mark Jinks.
“The other difficult thing about these shootings is that they’re not happening on a regular basis, or a scheduled basis, they’re happening at a variety of times,” Brown said. “We’re trying to stop this trend.”
Many of the incidents are occurring around Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing, and for the last several months the ARHA board of directors has had special virtual meetings every week to discuss developments during the pandemic.
“It’s unfortunate that these things are happening but we have increased policing that we feel will make a huge difference,” said ARHA Board Member Willie Bailey, who is also a former city councilman. “We have stepped up security at the properties by installing more cameras. We have also started an ARHA Resident Safety Committee where the residents can discuss their issues and have a say in the safety and well-being of their community.”
Lesley’s husband comes home next summer from his deployment, and she says she will make up her mind to move between now and then.
“We love this area, we love this neighborhood and Old Town,” she said. “We love our neighbors, but it’s beginning to be too much.”
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The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is planning to sponsor COVID-19 testing later this week.
“ARHA will be sponsoring COVID-19 testing for residents of Ladrey (300 Wythe Street) and Annie B. Rose (399 Pendleton Street) buildings on Thursday, July 16, from 8-11 a.m. in the parking lot behind the building,” said Rose Williams Boyd, spokesperson for the organization.
Both Annie B. Rose House and Ladrey Senior Highrise Apartments are senior housing locations.
The testing is part of a joint partnership between ARHA, the City, the Alexandria Health Department and Neighborhood Health. Local seniors have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, with all but one of the city’s 57 deaths being locals over 50. The majority of those deaths have been in long term care facilities.
Boyd said there will be no cost for the testing with 275 kits available. If more testing is needed, Boyd said it could be continued on Saturday, July 18.
While there was early frustration from residents at some of the measures ARHA took to isolate residents in the early stages of the pandemic, some have since praised the organization for decisive action in response to COVID-19.
Photo via ARHA
After some early concerns and criticisms, the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority‘s resident community praised the organization’s leadership and swift action through the pandemic, and vice-versa.
Kevin Harris, the president of the Public Housing Resident Association in Alexandria, praised ARHA’s leadership and CEO Keith Pettigrew in particular. Harris and Jeremy McClayton, an associate organizer with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, said it was a stark contrast to earlier experiences with ARHA.
“In ARHA is used to be that [residents] had to organize to make sure people weren’t living in black mold,” McClayton said. “It’s been a big turnaround.”
Harris said those residents organizing under the old ARHA also timed perfectly with new leadership coming into the association.
“It was a perfect storm,” Harris said. “As we were organizing, there was a changeover in ARHA and Keith really started out on the right foot… The pandemic wasn’t good, but as much as you’re able to help people: they did.”
So far, ARHA has no confirmed deaths from COVID-19. Pettigrew said he remains cautious about the path forward and a potential second wave, but said it was an overabundance of caution that left ARHA in a better place than some regional partners with the pandemic started.
“In terms of PPE, when [coronavirus] first hit in March and I told the staff we needed to get PPE like masks, even hazmat suits,” Pettigrew said. “At first, people were like ‘masks and suits?’ Then a month later were calling like ‘do you have any extras?'”
Pettigrew credits some of his caution to the five years he spent working in housing in New Orleans, which he said helped prepare him for the kind of mobilization and flexibility the pandemic required. Hurricanes, Pettigrew said, were also a situation where housing organizations needed to mobilize and rapidly improvise to deal with changing situations.
Harris said one of the most helpful areas ARHA implemented rapidly was pushing back rent due dates and recertification — which meant that anyone who lost their income could file a notice to ARHA and they would not be charging rent. ARHA not only offered rapid and accessible online recertification, but Harris credited the organization with working to make sure residents throughout the various communities understood what was needed and could be guided through the process.
“It was a matter of getting the information,” Harrs said. “They had staff members knocking door to door. They were helpful in making sure that residents got outside services as well.” Read More
An Alexandria man was shot late Monday night in the 700 block of North Fayette Street. The man suffered non-life-threatening injuries and drove himself to the hospital, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.
“There were a couple of cars that got damaged and hit with bullets holes damaged,” Ballantine told ALXnow. “The male subject took himself to Alexandria Hospital with a gunshot wound that was non-life-threatening.”
No one has been arrested for the incident and no suspect description is available.
The incident occurred before midnight near the Andrew Adkins property managed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which is near Richmond Highway and the Braddock Road Metro station.
Last month, police responded to multiple calls for shots fired in Old Town. In one incident in the 1000 block of Madison Street, shots were fired at a building and cars. No suspects have been arrested in connection with that incident.
The area where the incident occurred is less than a mile from where a 17-year-old resident was shot on a basketball court on March 31 near the Charles Houston Recreation Center, Mason Social and Lost Dog Cafe. Police are investigating that incident as a targeted attack and no one has been arrested.
Map via Google Maps
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Update 5:45 p.m. — ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said the organization has not evicted any residents, but has issued warnings aimed at preserving the vulnerable populations in ARHA communities.
“What we’re dealing with is a silent killer,” Pettigrew said. “We’re trying to keep people safe. It’s all about health and safety. The black community is the most vulnerable community. We’re not trying to be harsh, we’re trying to save lives.”
Pettigrew also said that if residents lose their employment they should contact their ARHA caseworker to schedule recertification, which will allow them to not be charged rent. The deadline for rent payment was also extended.
“We haven’t kicked anybody out, but we have to warn them,” Pettigrew emphasized. “The last thing we need are people dying. I think I’m quite lenient with people, but [not when] jeopardizing people’s health.”
Earlier: As with many government agencies and businesses, coronavirus has shut down the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. For local residents in Alexandria’s public housing, that’s been a mixed bag so far.
Keith Pettigrew, CEO of ARHA, said in a March letter to residents that the organization’s office would be closed through the duration of the pandemic.
“We want our residents and public to know that at this time we have closed all administrative offices until further notice,” Pettigrew wrote. “Although offices are closed, we will still be providing the necessary services for residents with some restrictions.”
Pettigrew said maintenance would only respond to emergency, health and safety-related issues. All other work requests will be addressed at an undetermined future date.
With the city calling for the state and the federal governments to freeze rents, some said ARHA should do the same for its unemployed residents.
“They should give the others a deal,” said one resident, a 60-year-old Chatham Square resident told ALXnow.
The resident is on disability, pays about $100 monthly and is concerned about her neighbors.
“They don’t want nobody on the streets. People can’t work right now, too,” she said. “People are looking for jobs, because it’s hard to get a job. It’s bad enough with this virus that people are getting laid off their jobs. A lot of people are dropping like flies, dying because of this, and that’s sad, too.”
ARHA set up a virtual rent payment service for residents, and installed a rent box at the main office on 401 Wythe Street.
Some residents believe ARHA is handling the pandemic too harshly.
“The community center is open for food distribution for the kids from the school system during the week, and it’s a nice thing they’re doing,” said one 65-year-old man living in Hopkins-Tancil.
However, he also said residents were threatened with eviction if their children were caught on the playground. Playgrounds across the city are closed in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“If kids are on the playground, we were told that we’d get a 21/30,” the resident said. “You know what that is, right? It’s a notice that you get 21 days to fix it, or 30 days to leave. They’d also fine us about $65 if we put our trash out too early. It would be nice if they didn’t threaten us.”
ARHA could not be reached for comment.
James Cullum contributed to this story
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