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Just as the school resource officer debate started to cool down, things have started heating up between the City Council local first responder unions and city leadership over pay issues.

At the same time, city officials are entering the final stretch before election day on Tuesday, Nov. 2., which among other statewide elections will see candidates competing for the City Council, mayoral and School Board seats in Alexandria.

On the bright side, the local woman who was looking for help to pay for surgery earlier this week met her GoFundMe goal.

Top stories

  1. Bonchon Chicken coming to Bradlee Shopping Center in December
  2. City to host historical discussion about Confederate statue removal
  3. Yates Pizza Palace plans go cold, but could reheat as food-prep space
  4. Poll: Are you planning on getting a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
  5. First responder unions say underfunding is a crisis in Alexandria, but city officials say it’s a false alarm
  6. Alexandria community champion and pastor Matthew Ian Gillette dies unexpectedly
  7. Alexandria surpasses 14,000 cases of COVID-19, numbers of unvaccinated sick kids ‘unexpectedly’ high
  8. Local woman seeks help to pay for tumor removal surgery
  9. Two Metro Yellow Line shutdowns scheduled for 2022
  10. Alexandria Police say quarrels over music may account for some school violence
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At an upcoming Alexandria City Council meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 26), City Manager Mark Jinks is scheduled to present a planned mid-year pay increase for city employees, though local unions that have been pushing for pay adjustment say it’s far from enough.

According to the docket, the proposal will be to restore a compensation initiative that had been eliminated last year because of COVID-19 revenue losses.

The report notes that the plan is to:

  • Implement the compensation initiatives eliminated in the FY 2021 budget
  • Provide a one-time $1,000 bonus for full-time employees and pro-rated for part-time employees
  • Provide funding for Deputy Sheriff positions one-time bonuses where state funding was not provided

The compensation initiative is a 1.5% rate boost to all city pay scales, with increases for various positions like captains and lieutenants in the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, as well as for the deputy fire chiefs and chief deputy sheriffs.

The item also “indicates that compensation will be a priority for funding consideration as part of planning for the upcoming FY 2023 proposed City operating budget.”

Earlier this week, the Alexandria Committee of Police, IUPA Local 5, and Alexandria International Association of Firefighters Local 2141 attacked city leadership over employee pay and funding for programs within those departments. City officials answered that these concerns were being blown out of proportion as a collective bargaining technique.

“This suggestion is almost as insulting as the 1.5% pay increase that the City Manager has proposed to solve our understaffing problem,” the union said in another joint press release. “Our members have been underpaid for years, and the City’s own benchmarks show that they aren’t meeting the promise of paying at the midpoint of our regional comparators.”

The release pointed to Montgomery County’s $10 per hour premium pay for frontline workers as an example — though Montgomery County police have also expressed disgruntlement over pay issues. The unions also criticized Jinks for using a 2019 study indicating comparative pay between Alexandria and other jurisdictions rather than one from last year that showed that gap had further worsened.

The full text of the city’s mid-year pay increase is available online, as is the full text of the local union’s response.

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(Updated 10/22) One of the possible motives being the recent violence in Alexandria City Public Schools being investigated by the Alexandria Police Department seems to be, of all things, disagreements over music lyrics, a police officer said at a meeting of the Gang Prevention Task Force last night (Wednesday).

“The issues at the school… appear to be a dispute over rap music,” said Lt. Jerry Newcomb, commander of the Crimes Against Persons Section. “It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re hoping to find out more… It’s a dispute over lyrics. Some of them think that the lyrics they’ve come up with are proprietary in some way, but we’re still trying to dig into it. That’s the underlying reason that we’re hearing.”

Newcomb said the investigation is hindered by an unwillingness of witnesses to come forward.

“A lot of the problems are we do have witnesses on the scene, but when we go to talk to them, none of them want to talk to us,” Newcomb said. “Our information is extremely limited, but we’re doing the best we can.”

Michael Johnson, from the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, said that he recently attended a gang prevention conference in Virginia Beach and talked to officials from North Carolina, who said they’re having similar issues.

“These issues from the young guys rapping, that’s not just here, but it’s down to North Carolina and Georgia too,” Johnson said. “It’s coming from YouTube and Facebook. I don’t want anyone to think it’s just Alexandria, it’s happening along the whole East Coast. Guys are traveling from other areas who call themselves rappers and are engaging in this and our kids are doing the same.”

The meeting also included an update on gang activity, including a note from one official that while there are reports of MS-13 graffiti popping up around Old Town, but at least some of that is from a person police know to not actually be affiliated with the gang. Officials also said that some of the newer gangs getting police attention are 47 West Side and South Side Chirilagua, which police say is something of a farm team for MS-13. Police also said South Side Chirilagua are also partially merging with another crew and rebranding.

“These are the types of gangs that always worry us because we don’t have a lot of intel on their activities,” said Jay Lanham, director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force.

Also, because it’s a city meeting with elected officials from the School Board and City Council, naturally the School Resource Officer discussion cropped up again. Both School Board member Ramee Gentry and City Council member Mo Seifeldein are on the task force — and both also leaving their elected office before the next meeting in January. During the meeting, Gentry urged the group to nudge the city toward reconsidering its earlier SRO position and urged “other elected officials” in the group to reconsider.

“Some of the discussion around SROs has been tainted,” Gentry said. “I really hope that the next batch of elected officials will listen to this group and carefully consider the best way to move forward in terms of best way to make our students feel accepted and protected in our school buildings.

Seifeldein, one of the School Board members who had advocated for SRO removal, noted that he was the only other elected official in the group.

“When I or Council members make policies, we follow facts and experts and peer-reviewed studies when we make policies,” Seifeldein said, “and I would hope that you do the same when you speak.”

Anyone with more information on any of these crimes is asked to reach out to the police’s non-emergency line: 703-746-4444

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A 43-year-old Orange County man was arrested in the Braddock area earlier this month for selling drug paraphernalia and providing a false statement to police after a concerned resident reported people passed out in a car.

On October 7, Alexandria Police found a black Acura TL parked in the 900 block of North Fayette Street. The man was asleep in the driver’s seat, and provided police with the false name of Thomas Sprow, police said in a search warrant affidavit.

Next to him in the passenger seat sat a 28-year-old woman drifting in and out of consciousness, with her door left open. Both the man and the woman were found to have outstanding warrants, and the woman (who had a failure to appear warrant) allegedly ran from police in her handcuffs before being apprehended a short distance away.

Police found more than 100 different types of pills on the male suspect, including Oxycontin, cough medicine, antidepressants, antipsychotics and antihistamines.

The man and woman complained of suffering from medical issues and were then transported to Inova Alexandria Hospital. While en route to the hospital, the woman told police that she took five one milligram “meth pills” an hour before in an effort to commit suicide, according to the affidavit.

The woman was not arrested or charged with any offense. The man was booked into the Alexandria Jail on October 10 and transferred to another facility on October 12, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He goes to court for both offenses on November 11.

Via Google Maps

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(Updated 3:40 p.m.) Organizations representing Alexandria police and firefighters are taking the city to task for what they say are chronic underpayment issues that put local residents at risk, but city officials say the push is a negotiation tactic in the ongoing collective bargaining discussions.

Local labor unions Alexandria Committee of Police, IUPA Local 5, and Alexandria International Association of Firefighters Local 2141 issued a joint press release decrying current pay conditions.

“Alexandria’s starting salary ranks 19th out of the 20 Northern Virginia jurisdictions, and we’re seeing how that impacts recruitment and retention.” said Marcus Downey, Vice President of the Alexandria Committee of Police, IUPA Local 5. “Through the first 9 months of the year, we have already lost 30 officers who have left for better-paying jobs, but we’ve only been able to hire 11 replacements. In a city where the crime rate has increased 15% since 2019, it is a safety risk for the community, and for our officers, when we can only replace 1 out of every 3 officers we lose.”

IAFF Local 2141 said in the press release that there are similar issues at the Alexandria Fire Department.

“Five years ago, before I joined the Alexandria Fire Department, I worked at the Wal-Mart warehouse” Said Matt DeBenedetto, an Alexandria firefighter. “I got paid more back then, working there than I do working for the Fire Department now. How can we recruit and retain people willing to run into burning buildings if safer, retail jobs pay significantly more?”

IAFF Local 2141 also warned that understaffing could lead to fire stations being closed, an allegation Mayor Justin Wilson previously denied.

Kelly Gilfillen, acting director of the Office of Communications and Public Information, said the advocacy push around police and firefighter pay is part of a collective bargaining strategy.

“As the City enters a new era of collective bargaining, it is understandable that the Police and Firefighters unions are initiating a public advocacy campaign to substantially increase their compensation,” said Gilfillen. “However, the Police and Fire Departments are well funded and the residents of Alexandria are safe.”

Gilfillen said the city periodically benchmarks its pay with that around the region and the City Manager makes pay recommendations based on the findings of that benchmarking.

“In the last seven years, the City Manager has made public safety pay increase recommendations six times,” Gilfillen said. “Any future pay recommendations made would need to be based upon regional benchmark findings and be equitable for all City employee groups.”

Despite this, Alexandria Police Officers have a lower starting salary than the city’s neighbors. In Alexandria, starting salary is $50,839, while that’s  $54,969 in Fairfax County and $56,035 in Arlington. Firefighters are also paid significantly less than neighbors around the region.

Gilfillen said City Manager Mark Jinks is planning to address this, at least in part, at next week’s City Council meeting.

“The City Manager plans on issuing an unprecedented mid-year pay proposal to City Council on Tuesday,” Gilfillen said. “He discussed it with the unions and other City employee groups last week. While the mid-year pay proposal is not a panacea, the City Manager has indicated, in recognition of the tight labor market, that he will be recommending to City Council this week that employee compensation is a priority consideration for planning next fiscal year’s budget.”

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The Alexandria Police Department announced that a 17-year-old male has been arrested and charged with crimes related to a shooting on Four Mile Road last week.

Last Sunday, Oct. 10, a juvenile male was shot at Park Vue of Alexandria apartments (511 Four Mile Road) just before noon. The victim had a gunshot wound on his upper body, but the injuries were considered not life-threatening and he was taken to the hospital.

The suspect fled the scene before police arrived, a police press release noted.

Police, on Monday, announced making an arrest in the case.

“Alexandria Police officers arrested a 17-year-old male on Friday, October 15, 2021, in connection with the October 10 shooting,” Police said in a release. “He was charged with Malicious Wounding, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, and Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile. He is being held at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center.”

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(Updated 11:30 a.m.) Francis C. Hammond Middle School was locked down this morning after a call about a shooting at the school, but the Alexandria Police Department said the call was unfounded.

According to the Alexandria Police Department:

UPDATE: APD received a call around 9:30am about a shooting at Francis C. Hammond MS on Seminary Road. Officers searched the school and determined the call was unfounded. A student was taken to the hospital after suffering a medical event while officers were searching the school.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said that Hammond Middle School has since resumed normal operations.

“In the event that your student is feeling anxious about school, please remind them that the school counselors, psychologists and social workers are present to support them in any way that they need support,” ACPS said in a Facebook post.

The school, like Alexandria City High School, was on lockdown this morning after the anonymous threat. Alexandria City Public Schools and the Alexandria Police Department could not be reached to confirm that the lockdowns were related.

An Alexandria woman looking to buy a puppy was scammed by a Facebook contact who blocked her after she made a deposit, according to police.

On September 17, the victim agreed on buying a puppy from a Facebook friend for $300. The victim provided $175 as a deposit via Cash App, but when she went to pick up the puppy at the agreed location the suspect allegedly blocked the buyer on Facebook.

“(The suspect) never responded and (the victim) was not refunded the $175,” police reported in a search warrant.

No arrest has been made.

Over the summer, Alexandria Police also investigated a woman scammed of $15,000 by a Facebook friend.

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(Updated 9:40 a.m.) Alexandria City High School and the Minnie Howard Campuses are on lockdown and will have an asynchronus learning day.

According to the school’s website:

For the safety and security of our students and staff, the Alexandria City High School King Street and Minnie Howard Campuses are currently on lockdown status and today, October 14, 2021, will be an asynchronous day. This is due to an anonymous threat that the Alexandria Police Department (APD) received. APD is currently conducting a threat assessment to determine credibility. More details to follow when the assessment is complete.

This is the second lockdown in the last two weeks. Last Tuesday, the school was put into lockdown when a student brought a loaded handgun onto the campus and was stopped at a school entrance.

On Twitter, Alexandria City High School Principal Peter Balas online education site Canvas for school assignments.

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A man was unsuccessful in trying to walk out of the Restaurant Depot on Eisenhower Avenue with $1,851.73 using a discarded receipt, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

The incident at the store at 4600 Eisenhower Avenue occurred in August, and the suspect has not been arrested. He “passed all the points of sale without purchasing the store merchandise,” police said in a search warrant.

Restaurant Depot management gave APD security footage of the suspect picking up a discarded receipt out of a trash can and then presenting it to security staff at the exit of the store, police said.

“The suspect was questioned regarding the authenticity of the receipt, at which (time) the suspect immediately left the merchandise inside the store and walked to his vehicle,” police said in the search warrant.

The suspect was then captured driving away in a black SUV with DC license plates.

Restaurant Depot wants to follow through with prosecution if the suspect is arrested, police said.

Via Google Maps

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