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Alexandria City Public Schools is has a “crew” problem — organized groups of kids that are participating in criminal behavior, according to Police Chief Don Hayes.

If the description sounds like a gang, there’s not much difference. Hayes says that the school system is also dealing with gang activity.

“We have gangs, and we also have groups called crews with young males going around and just doing violent acts, but also just instigating crimes, things like that,” Hayes said on Monday night (September 26) at Agenda Alexandria‘s discussion on school safety. “We know that they are not just in our school system, but our neighborhoods.”

In the meantime, ACPS is also contending with an opioid crisis. Between April 1 and May 1, there were six opioid overdoses of minors in Alexandria. Each ACPS school carries has the prescription medicine Narcan, which can reverse an opioid overdose through injection or intranasal mist.

“I would say we do have a fentanyl crisis in the city, as evidenced by the opioid workgroup,” said Julie Crawford, the ACPS chief of Student Services and Equity. “It’s challenging as a school system to be able to identify the exact substance without getting the information from our students. But we know that many things that students may think are not as harmful, like marijuana, which of course we know is harmful, we don’t want our students using is more likely to be laced with fentanyl.”

Safety in schools has been a top issue in Alexandria since full in-person schooling resumed at the beginning of the last school year. ACPS began the 2021-2022 school year without school resource officers, after they were defunded by the City Council in last year’s budget. What followed was an uptick in incidents with weapons in schools that prompted School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and former Superintendent Gregory Hutchings to plead for their return in October 2021.

The discussion, which was moderated by Alexandria journalist Michael Lee Pope, comes on the heels of a new safety report detailing arrest and security incidents in the final two quarters of the 2021-2022 school year. There were 46 students arrested and 68 injured last school year, and 194 incidents that provoked a police response, according to the report. The school system will now begin compiling the data on a more regular basis, using the 2021-2022 school year as a baseline for future improvement.

Hayes said that the police presence of school resource officers at Alexandria City High School’s campuses and at the city’s middle schools has resulted in a safer beginning to the school year than last year.

“I believe that here are going to be incidents that are going to happen but I believe that because of partnerships that we’ve developed there, because of our presence there, because of extra security specifically for the high school,” Hayes said. “I know for a fact this year has been less eventful than the past two years, and even before the pandemic happened, and I think it’s getting to a point now where we are looking better.”

Herb Berg, the ACPS superintendent from 1995 to 2001, said that the pandemic created a crisis of education within Alexandria’s school system.

“We have 15,700 kids who lost two years of education,” Berg said. “That is a crisis of huge magnitude… I think the city council and the mayor needs to be asking for a meeting with the City School Board, and the superintendent and best minds in the city to put their arms around this issue. These kids have lost an education, and you’re not going to be able to make it if you don’t make it the number one priority.”

The School Board is set to receive the recommendations on the reimagined partnership between ACPS and the police department with a recommendation from the Superintendent’s School Law Enforcement Partnership (SLEP) Advisory Group in mid-December.

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(Updated 3:45 p.m.) After all the fuss over its creation, the Alexandria Independent Community Policing Review Board has seemingly had a pretty quiet first full year since its creation.

The Board started meeting in January this year, and the first annual public report said it’s mostly been focusing on prep work.

“The Board began meeting in January 2022, and has been diligently working on readiness requirements in the ordinance such as hiring an Independent Policing Auditor/Investigator, drafting bylaws, and completing training,” the report said.

The seven-person Board was created by City Council last year to independently review allegations of police misconduct.

The top item in the report has been the board’s work in helping to select an independent auditor, who will hire staff, conduct investigations and coordinate the Board’s administrative functions.

So far, the Board has reviewed and discussed resumes of several applicants. In May, the Board met with the City Manager to discuss the hiring process and candidate resumes.

“On May 13, Board Chair Todd Pilot and and Vice Chair Emily Flores met with Kenyatta Uzzell, CEO of Polihire, to better understand the selection process and to provide feedback on the Board’s view of the role of the Auditor and the background and characteristics they saw as important for the position,” the report said. “Polihire identified four candidates. The Board interviewed the four candidates and asked the City Council to interview three of the four candidates.”

According to the report: the pending appointment of an auditor has left the Board in quasi-stasis, unable to implement its bylaws without the assistance and oversight of the as-yet unselected auditor.

The report also said that, despite some scheduling hiccups, all members of the Board will complete their training sessions by the end of this month:

Nevertheless, as of the date of this report, the Board members are expected to have completed their training requirements by the end of September 2022. For each member, this training will include:

  • Presentation on the Board’s powers and duties under Title 2, Chapter 4, Article AAA of the City Code (the Independent Community Policing Review Board Article) by Meghan Roberts and Robert Porter of the City Attorney’s Office;
  • Presentation on the Board’s obligations under FOIA, conflict of interest and ethics rules,and Roberts Rules of Order by David Lanier of the City Attorney’s Office;
  • Presentation on use of force by APD Sgt. Ryan Staab;
  • Presentation on the investigative process of the APD Office of External Affairs andProfessional Responsibility by Sgt. Jeff Harrington, with assistance from Sgt. Aloysius Asonglefac;
  • Three ride-alongs with the APD; and
  • Eight hours of National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement training webinars.

Once an auditor is selected, the report said the Board will able to do more in the upcoming year. The report included a list of goals and benchmarks for the Board to accomplish by this time in 2023:

  • Enact bylaws and investigation procedures
  • Get Auditor, Board Chair and Board Vice Chair involved in NACOLE (The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement) and registered for NACOLE conferences, encourage other Board members to get involved with NACOLE
  • Execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the APD
  • Create an intake process and tracking system
  • Issue the Board Readiness Resolution
  • Begin reviewing investigative cases
  • Make available videos of meetings on website
  • Review of APD policies
  • Meet with community groups, the APD, and police union.
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A new report on student safety should be taken with a grain of salt, according to members of the Alexandria School Board.

The School Board received the report Thursday night (September 22), and it includes details of 194 incidents that occurred between January and June. Not all of the incidents were criminal in nature, which led some School Board members to question the report’s validity.

“It’s really easy to look at these numbers of these data and draw conclusions, some of them often negative,” said School Board Member Ashley Simpson Baird. “It’s also really difficult just because we don’t yet have that longitudinal data yet, this is just a school year. We don’t know if this is better or worse than two years ago, or three years ago or 10 years ago.”

The data shows that 26 Alexandria City Public School students were arrested in the final two quarters of the 2021-2022 school year. There were also 34 students injured, 28 reported fights/assaults and 11 incidents of sexual assault/sexual misconduct. With the four quarters of the year combined, 46 students were arrested and 68 injured.

Board Member Abdel Elnoubi agreed with Simpson Baird.

“Wait and let’s have a goal that hopefully we start seeing numbers come down,” Elnoubi said. “Don’t look at raw numbers. Don’t look at that in a vacuum, because we It doesn’t mean much unless you put it in context. I just encourage community members to keep that in mind.”

John Contreras, the ACPS director of Safety and Security Services, said that not all incidents were criminal in nature, like when a child needed help getting unstuck in their second grade classroom, or when a golf cart battery caught fire at Alexandria City High School.

“It is important to note that APD (Alexandria Police Department) calls for service are not solely in relation to support for incidents that are criminal in nature,” Contreras said. “It includes a wide variety of things, including missing students, that sort of thing, not an actual criminal act, but we do sometimes someone need assistance or police to help us look for a student that may have not come on time.”

Contreras also said that arrests increased because of large groups of students fighting.

“One assault by mob… resulted in six arrests,” Contreras said. “Another was three — three arrests in one incident.”

Contreras recalled another incident of students smoking marijuana in an ACHS bathroom.

“A teacher goes in there (the bathroom), notices that the aroma in there smelled like marijuana, a controlled substance that’s not supposed to be at the school, but interviews with students or a search of their belongings did not reveal anything. It’s still reported to us as a controlled substance violation of some sort. Law enforcement was collaborated with, but it didn’t really resulting with anything other than administrative response at the school level.”

Alicia Hart, the chief of Facilities and Operations, said that the report is the new baseline for the school system.

“This really is the true baseline for incidents, calls for service and arrests and should be used to note changes in school division safety,” Hart said.

Interim Superintendent Melnie Kay-Wyatt said she wants the numbers in the report to go down.

“I really think it’s just allowing probably another full school year this school year for us to get some more data to really start measuring,” Kay-Wyatt said.

Agenda Alexandria will discuss student safety on Monday, September 26, at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (101 Callahan Drive) at 6:30 p.m.

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A 14-year-old Alexandria boy was arrested and charged with robbery after allegedly pistol-whipping a juvenile in the West End.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, July 5, in the 400 block of N. Armistead Street. Police found the juvenile victim with a “large amount of blood” on his hands, as well as abrasions on his head and cheek, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The victim told police that three suspects stole his backpack and Apple Air Pods by force, and that one of them hit him with a plastic gun.

“One of the suspects possessed an apparent plastic gun and pistol whipped (the victim) with the weapon while in the process of stealing their property,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “Another suspect displayed a knife and threatened to use it against (the victim) during the incident.”

The suspect who allegedly hit the victim was positively identified in a photo line up, and was arrested and charged with robbery from person. He was taken to the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center.

Via Google Maps

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A teller at the Alexandria DMV Customer Service Center (2681 Mill Road) has been charged with credit card fraud after allegedly using a stolen Visa gift card to pay for the license renewal of a friend.

The 40-year-old woman was arrested on credit card fraud charges on September 2, more than three months after a wallet with credit cards was stolen from a car in Loudoun County.

The incident occurred on May 28 in front of a house on Cardinal Flower Lane in Aldie, Virginia. The victim reported to police that her Kate Spade wallet with multiple credit cards was stolen and that the cards were then used to buy five Visa gift cards at three separate CVS stores in Maryland, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The incident occurred about 25 miles from the suspect’s home in the 100 block of Lynhaven Drive.

Two of the gift cards were used by two male suspects at a Lowe’s in Fairfax County that same day, May 28. The following day, a male suspect used another of the cards at a Walmart in Fairfax County. Neither of the alleged accomplices have been charged.

The suspect works as a teller at the Alexandria DMV Customer Service Center (2681 Mill Road), and on June 2 allegedly used one of the stolen Visa gift cards to pay for the license renewal for a friend, according to a search warrant affidavit. Police were able to see video of the transaction, which shows the suspect reaching over the counter to pay for the renewal with one of the gift cards.

“DMV law enforcement was able to video and documents of the transaction, including a DMV Teller Transaction Audit of the event,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

The suspect was arrested on September 2 and released the same day on a $2,000 bond.

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More details have emerged in the August 27 shooting in the Braddock area that resulted left a woman injured and a man behind bars.

At around 8:30 p.m., a 38-year-old woman was shot in the foot in an alley in the 700 block of N. Fayette Street. Police say the woman was an innocent bystander.

Tykeece Simms, 21, an Alexandria resident, was charged with malicious wounding, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and unlawful discharge of a firearm. Police arrested Simms less than a mile away on the front porch of his home.

“Mr. Sims initially admitted to being at the scene of the incident but denied involvement in the shooting,” police said in a search warrant affidavit. “He stated that he ran from the scene becaus he heard gunshots. After further questioning, Mr. Simms admitted to being the shooter.”

Simms told police that he’d gotten into an argument with a man at a nearby deli, and that the man threatened his life, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“Mr. Simms state that he was in fear for his life, and felt it was necessary to shoot the gun to protect himself,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “It should be noted that Mr. Simms smelled like alcohol and admitted to being intoxicated.”

Simms, who was not arrested with a gun, also allegedly told police that he was a convicted felon and felt it necessary to carry one for safety. No gun was recovered in the search of his home, but police found magazines and boxes with hollow-point 9mm ammunition, 9 mm handgun magazines and a soft case for a handgun.

Simms goes to court on October 5.

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The Remsen building of the Patent and Trademark Office (image via Google Maps)

The Remsen building of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria will be closed for the rest of the week after what the USPTO has called an “Alexandria Campus Incident”.

Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett said police received a call at approximately 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14, for a person having a mental health crisis.

“APD reported to the scene and with the help of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Protective Services we were able to make contact with the subject and connect them with services,” Bassett said.

Despite rumors circulating among staffers left in the dark about what was happening, Bassett said no one was killed during the incident.

A memo to employees at the USPTO from Fred Steckler, Chief Administrative Office for the USPTO, said police were on campus to “protect an individual in distress.” The letter provided few other details about what happened other than it was under control, but urged workers in the building to be discrete about what took place at the building.

“While I truly understand the natural human instinct to want to know more, I’d like to encourage empathy and privacy for those most directly impacted,” Steckler wrote. “We will always do our best to communicate relevant information about safety and security to you, while exercising discretion and protecting individual privacy.”

While Steckler’s memo indicated that the office would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, a USPTO spokesperson confirmed that the office would be closed until Saturday, though they would not comment on why.

Some in the patent examiner subreddit noted intensely stressful working conditions in the building and cited previous incidents of violence in the building: notably a malicious wounding in 2016 after a former examiner returned to the office after being fired and stabbed a DJ at a work event.

Letter from Fred Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer of the PTO, to staff (image via USPTO)

Photo via Google Maps

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Despite rumors to the contrary, the Alexandria Police Department (APD) said no one was killed at the Patent and Trademark Office yesterday.

Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett said APD received a call at approximately 10:45 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday) for a person having a mental health crisis.

“APD reported to the scene and with the help of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Protective Services we were able to make contact with the subject and connect them with services,” Bassett said.

Neither APD nor the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posted additional information on social media so the Patent Examiner subreddit became a hub for people in the building seeking more information on the incident, but APD said reports on the subreddit that someone was murdered in the building are not true.

“For clarity, no one was killed,” Bassett said.

An email from the USPTO after the incident provided no new information about the incident, but said that the affected building would be closed today (Wednesday) as a result and urged “discretion and confidentiality” about the incident.

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A man was shot in Arlandria on Sunday night, according to Alexandria Police.

The incident occurred at around 7:30 p.m. in front of an apartment building in the 3800 block of Old Dominion Boulevard. A 50-year-old man was shot and transported to George Washington University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The male suspect fled on foot and has not been arrested. Witnesses said that they heard two shots fired in rapid succession, and shell casings were found on the ground in front of the property.

Anyone with information on the incident can contact Detective Robert Hill via [email protected] or 703-746-6712. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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A 35-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond for allegedly brandishing a handgun outside a nightclub in the West End on Sunday, September 4.

No one was injured and nothing was stolen in the incident, which occurred at around 2 a.m. in the 600 block of S. Pickett Street. Multiple witnesses told police that they saw the suspect pull out a handgun, according to Alexandria Police.

Asim High was arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm on or near school grounds and resisting arrest. He goes to court for the incident on October 12.

Anyone with information on this incident can contact the Alexandria Police Department’s non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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