A former receptionist at Landmark Honda posted bail after being arrested earlier this month for stealing and using a customer’s credit card.

The incident occurred in January, and the suspect — a 25-year-old Alexandria woman — was arrested on July 6. She was charged with credit card theft and credit card fraud, six months after the manager of the dealership reported several fraudulent charges.

In January, the manager showed police security videos of the employee allegedly enter the customer’s private financial information into her phone, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The card owner reported several fraudulent purchases, including $165 in charges at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania. The suspect also allegedly spent nearly $500 for clothes and $27 for DoorDash, bringing the total amount to $685.97, according to police.

Police got a search warrant for the historical data on the suspect’s phone and found that she was in the area of the resort on the same day as the January 26 expenditure.

The suspect, a graduate of Bishop Ireton High School, is scheduled for arraignment in court on July 21.

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What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.

This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.

The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
  2. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  3. Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
  4. Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
  5. No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
  6. DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
  7. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  8. After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
  9. New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
  10. Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
  11. Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs

Have a safe weekend!

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While owning up to an ounce of marijuana is now legal in Virginia, there’s been a delayed reaction in Alexandria.

Since July 1, it’s also been legal to grow up to four plants and to gift up to an ounce.

Del Ray resident Devin Fraley has been growing in his back yard for more than a year.

“Last summer somebody gave me a seed,” Fraley said. “I just put it into the ground next to our tomatoes. We grow small plants, and it was kind of fun to watch it grow between the peppers and tomatoes. It broke during a rainstorm in the fall, and we harvested it and I gave the buds to my mother-in-law. This year we decided to do the same thing. We have one plant, and we are not growers.”

Not much has changed from a behavioral or law enforcement standpoint, acting Police Chief Don Hayes told ALXnow.

“There’s still not enough evidence to see how it’s gonna sway what we do one way or the other,” Hayes said, adding that the department hasn’t received many pot-related calls for service. “Only time will tell.”

One incident caused concern in Old Town last Sunday, July 18. A woman was walking her puppy in Founders Park near the waterfront when it ate some discarded marijuana.

“Someone dropped marijuana in the park earlier and she ate it sending us to the veterinary emergency room,” the woman wrote on Nextdoor. “This was a touch and go situation. She is fine now. This is just a cautionary note – so (be) on the lookout. The Vet said they are seeing a lot more of this recently and honestly they seem to know what was wrong almost immediately.”

Fraley said his neighbors still won’t talk about marijuana.

“This is still illegal federally,” he said. “If you have a federal job, it’s not okay for you to partake in. I’m sure there are other people doing it, but it’s still something that you wouldn’t want to talk about because you have a very valuable crop that can be stolen easily. Even though it’s legal, people still aren’t talking about it.”

In Old Town, resident Fawn Lee said that legalization has started to remove the negative stigma around pot.

“It feels easier to talk about it as a part of my life, as something that relieves my stress and anxiety,” Lee said. “It also means that I can talk about it without fearing repercussions for my daughter’s school or anyone else that cares for her or is around her in any capacity, because it’s no longer illegal.”

While the recreational sale of marijuana is three years away, possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound, is still a civil penalty of $25. Possessing more than that is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

Alexandria says marijuana will “keep you from doing your best” and warns against deteriorating IQs, school performance and quality of life.

“Studies also consistently show that individuals that use marijuana are less likely to graduate from high school or college and more likely to be unemployed,” the City said in a release.

Fraley recently found a downside to growing.

“The plant is doing fine, but I think it’s a male which means it doesn’t have any hallucinogenic properties, so it’s really just garbage,” he said.

via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Taser, pepper spray used by Arlington police to restrain Alexandria man — “Arlington County Police used a taser and pepper spray against an Alexandria man Wednesday after he resisted arrest at a Pentagon City business, according to the daily crime report. Officers were dispatched around 12:17 p.m., to a business in the 1100 block of S. Hayes Street for the report of a trespassing. The officers learned that the business wanted to ban Dupree Stringfellow, 27, of Alexandria. During their investigation, police determined there was an active warrant for Stringfellow’s arrest.” [Patch]

Alexandria’s The Italian Place rolling out eatery in Merrifield — “The Italian Place had planned to welcome customers to its new spot at 2985 District Avenue (Suite 190) this Saturday (July 24), but the grand opening will be delayed to August because more time is needed to prepare, owner and CEO Adriana Penachio-Sifakis says.” [Tysons Reporter]

Alexandria Police Department entrance exam is on July 26 — “Do you want to join the APD family and serve the City of Alexandria? We just added a new date for the written exam. The next test is this Monday, July 26, at 5:00 p.m.” [Twitter]

Mayor averages 5-6 hours of sleep every night — “I usually do 5-6 hours a night. I try to be in bed by 2 most nights and usually up a little after 7. If I run in the morning, I usually go out around 6, so I try to be in bed a little after midnight. I’m sure this sleep schedule is not remotely healthy for me!” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). High 87F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 68F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Store manager — “Come work with us at Spencer’s & Spirit Halloween, where you’ll be working with the best and brightest colleagues as you help us deliver the most fun experience and product possible to our guests. We’re fast-paced and take our work seriously, but we always have a good laugh at the end of the day. Walk through our stores or the halls of our corporate office and you’ll see firsthand that we’re laidback and irreverent. We’re firm believers in being true to YOU, so tattoos and piercings are as common as water cooler convos. Whether it’s critiquing our new exclusive costumes or quality testing newly implemented software technology, our teams understand the importance of working collaboratively to challenge status quo and achieve our goals. We keep pushing ourselves to go above and beyond and are looking for top talent to become a part of our team!” [Indeed]

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It’s taken Don Hayes 40 years to get to the top of the mountain, and the acting chief of the Alexandria Police Department wants to keep it that way.

It’s been a less than a month since Hayes took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown, who gave three weeks notice and pulled up stakes for the West Coast to handle family matters. Now with a national search underway for Brown’s replacement, Hayes has let City Manager Mark Jinks know that he wants the job.

“They’re gonna do a process, and I’m going to put my hat in the ring and we’ll see what happens there,” Hayes told ALXnow in a recent interview at police headquarters.

Hayes’ rise in the department has been steady, becoming a sergeant in 1996, a lieutenant in 1999, a captain in 2013 and then being named assistant chief under Brown in 2019.

Since taking the reins, Hayes has used early evenings making the rounds to communities in a trust-building effort. His department has been plagued by compensation issues, low morale, rising crime throughout the city resulting from pandemic and other challenges that have stretched both the APD budget and the nerves of officers.

“I go around to communities because they know me,” Hayes said. “And I know them. But what is happening, because of the national narrative, is that I believe that there’s a lack of trust in some communities, with the police department.”

He also recently named Captain Dennis Andreas as his acting assistant chief.

“I believe that what you’re going to see is leadership by example,” Hayes said. “I believe that when the officers see that their leaders are out there in the neighborhoods, getting to know them, they’re going to follow suit.”

Hayes is married with two adult children, and has lived in the city for 30 years. A native of Washington, D.C., Hayes followed his older brother Clarence into the U.S. Air Force, where he became a military police officer. After being discharged and returning home four years later, he kept on a uniform by joining the Alexandria Police Department in March of 1981. He has a degree in business and finance from Norfolk State University, a Master’s degree in management and leadership from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in divinity from Liberty University.

Hayes has been the pastor at Oakland Baptist Church for the last 15 years. He’s taken a break sermonizing every Sunday since taking the acting chief role, but says he’ll return to the pulpit this fall.

“I believe in leadership by inclusiveness,” he said. “I don’t make decisions in a silo. I bring the leadership team together, we discuss our options and we make the best informed decision that we can.”

Hayes also says his staff are working with Alexandria City Public Schools on drafting a new memorandum of understanding since City Council defunded the school resource officer program. He said he hopes the new MOU will be ready before school starts on April 24.

“Students are going to be students, and we will have things in place to ensure that schools are safe,” he said.

Hayes, who is the second Black man to lead the department after Chief Earl Cook, said he was fortunate to be able to work with Al Beverly, the first-ever Black Alexandria police officer. Beverly, who joined the department in 1965, passed away last year.

“I remember (Beverly) telling me the story about how, at one point time, he didn’t know what side he was on because he wasn’t accepted by the police department,” Hayes said. “And he wasn’t accepted by his community, because he thought that they had pretty much turned on him. But he stuck it out because he wanted to blaze the trail for people like myself, that one day I would be able to join his police department and make an impact.”

Hayes continues, “When I think about the conversations that I used to have with him and talk to him and now to be able to sit in the seat… to actually make decisions to try to make this police department the best that it can be, it’s really sobering. It’s a challenge.”

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No one was injured after gunfire damaged a business and an apartment building in the Braddock area on Wednesday evening.

Alexandria Police said that the incident occurred at around 6:35 p.m. Multiple shell casings were recovered in the 800 block of N. Henry Street in Old Town North and no suspects have been arrested.

“Detectives are actively following leads in this ongoing investigation,” police said in a news release. “Anyone with video or information about the incident is urged to contact Investigator Matthew Barnickle at [email protected] or call the police non-emergency line at 703-746-4444.”

Callers can remain anonymous.

Last month, police reported success in combating a surge in shots fired incidents.

via Google Maps

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What a hot week in Alexandria.

With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s, the week started with a power outage at a 17-story apartment building in Landmark area. The outage lasted five days and residents had to find accommodations until the building reopened Friday afternoon.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria experienced a slight uptick, and the health department says unvaccinated residents account for a majority of new cases. There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported.

In school news, this week we spoke with Alexandria High School Principal Peter Balas, who said that his staff are ready to fully reopen for full-time in-person instruction when the 2021-2022 school year starts on August 24.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Here’s the plan for Alexandria’s birthday celebration this weekend
  2. City Council approves massive high-rise project without affordable housing near Eisenhower Metro station
  3. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  4. Del. Mark Levine raises eyebrows with letter that passes buck on constituent service
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria City High School is ready to reopen at full capacity next month, principal says
  7. School Board Member Jacinta Greene faces reelection, wants race relations taught in ACPS
  8. Tropical Storm Elsa’s dregs tear through southern Alexandria
  9. Poll: Do you agree with reallocation of school resource officer funding?
  10. West End high-rise apartment building evacuated after power outage
  11. The Alexandria Police, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department all want raises

Have a safe weekend!

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After a break last year, National Night Out is returning on Tuesday, August 3.

The annual community-building campaign brings the Alexandria Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office and other City agencies into communities for cookouts as part of a nationwide crime and drug prevention effort.

Previous National Night Out events have brought McGruff the Crime Dog, Spider-Man and other celebrities to cookout locations, along with quick visits from elected officials and other city leaders.

The event was founded by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984. The celebration was postponed last year due to the pandemic, and now more than 20 Alexandria neighborhoods will host block parties, cookouts, and ice cream socials from 5 p.m to 9 p.m.

via Facebook

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Alexandria’s police, fire and sheriff’s offices are asking the City Council for a raise.

The city imposed a pay and hiring freeze during the pandemic, and after more than a year of operating under a City Emergency, all city and state employees got a 1% bonus and merit increases were restored with the passage of the fiscal year 2022 budget.

It wasn’t enough.

The Alexandria Police Department and Fire Department are among the lowest paid in the region, with full-time starting salaries at $$49,294 for firefighters and $51,000 for police officers.

The presidents of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Association, the local 5 chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Union of Police Associations want a 1.5% merit pay increase, instead of the 1% that all city employees received in the approved FY22 budget. They said that the city saved $6 million with the hiring freeze, and that hundreds of jobs were left vacant.

“The workload was instead picked up by other dedicated City employees so as to maintain seamless service to Alexandria’s residents and visitors,” the trio wrote in the July 8 letter to Council. “This added work caused burn-out and lowered morale as employees took on additional responsibilities.”

Mayor Justin Wilson has asked City Manager Mark Jinks to provide an update on the city’s regional comparisons to determine necessary adjustments to “remain competitive.”

Salaries are a collective bargaining issue, and earlier this year Council unanimously adopted a collective bargaining ordinance. In other words, the unions are expected to reach a collective bargaining agreement before making asks of Council.

“In a future collective bargaining environment, we will have multi-year collective bargaining agreements that dictate what raises (as well as many other things) will look like,” Wilson said. “But we’re not there yet.”

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A 59-year-old Alexandria man has been arrested nearly five months after DNA evidence linked him to a robbery at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Del Ray.

Alexandria Police responded to a commercial alarm at the convenience store at 2108 Mount Vernon Avenue at around 3:15 a.m. on Friday, January 22.

“When they arrived, they discovered that the front glass door of the business had been shattered and a significant amount of substance, believed to be blood, was found on the glass near the break point,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

Security video found the suspect threw a projectile at the door, and then attempted to enter the business starting with his left leg, “as he attempted to enlarge the opening with his body weight,” police said.

Blood evidence was collected and sent to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

The results came back on May 10, identifying Stanley Rivers as the suspect. An old booking photo with the Sheriff’s Office also found that Rivers matched the suspect description, according to police.

Rivers was booked for a number of offenses on June 16, including burglary, assaulting law enforcement, resisting arrest, property destruction and stealing two credit card numbers. He goes to court later this month.

Courtesy Google Maps

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