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Crime scene tape around the Speedway station south of Old Town, scene of a reported shooting (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria experienced a nearly 30% increase in Part 1 crime in 2023, and Mayor Justin Wilson says new initiatives will help stem the flow.

Part 1 crimes, or crimes against people, include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft. There were 4,410 total Part I incidents in 2023, an increase of 31% over the 3,361 incidents reported in 2022, according to the Alexandria Police Department Crime Dashboard.

Aggravated assaults are up 50%, with 258 incidents reported in 2023. Aggravated assaults jumped nearly 30%, robberies are up 31%, larcenies are up 30% and auto thefts rose 53%.

In his monthly newsletter, Wilson said that the increase in violent crime, in particular, is unacceptable.

“While the year ended with positive trendlines in several areas, the overall increase for 2023, and particularly the increase in violent crime, is unacceptable,” Wilson wrote. “Protecting the safety of our community is the most important obligation of local government. If our residents are not safe, nothing else matters.”

Last year, APD put mobile camera units in high crime areas after a number of shooting incidents in the city’s Braddock neighborhood. APD also told city council that it would combat the crime surge by increasing foot patrols.

Wilson’s comments follow the recent announcement that Police Chief Don Hayes is retiring this month and that the city will be conducting a search for his replacement.

Not all the Part 1 numbers increased, as there were four homicides in 2023, versus six homicides in 2022, and four rape incidents in 2023, down from eight rape incidents in 2022.

According to Wilson:

The underlying causes of the increases in violence (not just in Alexandria, but around the region and our nation) are so varied, that there is no single answer to this issue. However, the City is approaching this uptick in violence using multiple approaches:

  • Restoring Police Staffing/Reducing Attrition
  • Expanding “upstream” investments (family supports, mental/behavioral health, housing, re-entry programs, etc) proven to reduce violence
  • Expanding community policing
  • Continue advocacy for new laws in Washington and Richmond to slow the flow of dangerous firearms into our community

In recent budget decisions, we have included new funding for investigatory capacity focused on those responsible for homicides, felony sex offenses and crimes driven by weapons. We have continued to see mental health and behavioral health incidents driving emergency response. The City’s ACORP program, a co-response program pairing a sworn police officer with a mental health practitioner, has seen considerable success. The City Council chose to build on the success of this effort by expanding ACORP by adding two new ACORP pairs, for a total of 3.

The City has hired two of the largest classes of new police officers entering the Academy. As those officers conclude their training, we will make large progress on some of the staffing challenges the Police Department has experienced for the past few years.

Alexandria’s Part 1 crime data (via City of Alexandria)
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Police car lights (file photo)

A 61-year-old Arlington man is behind bars for the alleged abduction and brutal rape of a woman in the Skyline area in 1988.

George Thomas, Jr., was identified by a Fairfax County Police Department fingerprint examiner, who matched a fingerprint found on the victim’s vehicle in 1988 to a fingerprint from a 2020 concealed weapons charge that was on file in Alexandria. He would have been 26 years old when the incident occurred.

“In this case, justice was delayed but justice was not denied,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis announced in a press conference on Tuesday (Nov. 22). “Closure is really not a representative description of how victims feel, even many, many years later. This is another chapter for the victim in this case.”

On the evening of August 24, 1988, the 22-year-old victim was walking to her car in the mall parking garage when she was abducted by two men.

“The victim was forced into her vehicle and made to drive to a secluded location in the Northern Virginia area here in the DMV,” said Major Ed O’Carroll, the commander of the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensic Bureau. “The victim was led to a wooded area. Both men raped her before, again, forcing her back into her car to drive to yet another secluded location and raped her again.”

O’Carroll continued, “This is a horrible, tragic and profoundly horrifying series of events. The victim thankfully was able to escape in her car and fled the scene following the second assault.”

After discovering the fingerprint match, Fairfax County Police then identified the second suspect as Gregory Allen Thomas, the suspect’s deceased younger brother. He died in 2009.

“As the years passed, the FCPD never forgot about this case,” O’Carroll said. “We always hoped for a forensic development.”

Thomas was charged with two counts of rape, one count of sodomy and one count of abduction. He is being held without bond in the Montgomery County Detention Center and goes to court on Dec. 21.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Marhals Service, the Metro Transit Police and the Fairfax County Police Department.

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A 53-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond after a woman was abducted and repeatedly raped in a West End apartment.

The incident occurred on the evening of Thursday, May 12.

The woman told police that she met Gerald Dmitri Palmer in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. earlier that night, and then took a bus back to Palmer’s apartment in the unit block of South Van Dorn Street — near the intersection with Duke Street.

“The victim stated that they drank some chardonnay wine out of cans and were going to watch a movie, but Mr. Palmer turned on pornography and she became confused,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

The victim told police that she then tried to leave, but that Palmer then allegedly grabbed her and raped her. She told police that he forced her into his bedroom and tied her hands and feet with zip ties, and that he raped her “multiple times throughout the night,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

“While interviewing the victim, Detectives observed ligature marks on her wrists, consistent with being zip tied,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

On Friday morning, the victim reported that Palmer cut the zip ties to her hands from a pair of scissors in a dresser drawer, and then left the apartment. The victim said that she took those same scissors and cut the zip ties around her ankles. She told police that she found her shoes and a T-shirt to wear and then fled the apartment.

Police found Palmer nearby, and he told them that he knew the victim and that they had consensual sex, according to a search warrant. Palmer was arrested and charged with rape, abduction with intent to defile and strangulation resulting in injury. He goes to court on June 24.

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Alexandria’s Part 1 crime rate is up, and it’s mostly due to an increase in larcenies and thefts from cars.

Police released the city’s Part 1 crime statistics for 2022 on Tuesday, and included are the reported numbers of homicides, rapes, robberies, grand larcenies from vehicles, and aggravated assaults.

Overall, crimes against people and property in the city are up 7%, when compared to the first five months of last year.

There has been one homicide in 2022 — a 25-year-old man who was found dead on the sidewalk in the West End in March. There were two homicides in the city in 2021 and four homicides in 2020.

Below are Part 1 crimes for the period of January 1 – May 11 for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022:

Crime Type 2020 2021 2022
Homicide 0 0 1
Rape 5 2 1
Robbery 32 34 34
Aggravated Assault 73 76 63
Burglary 46 81 54
Larceny 791 753 845
Grand Larceny from Auto 91 77 98
Total 1,038 1,023 1,096

Larcenies are on the rise, with 845 incidents reported in the first five months of the year — a 12% increase over last year. Thefts from automobiles are also up 27%, with 98 incidents reported.

The city saw a 19% increase in Part 1 crime in 2020, which then fell by 2% in 2021:

Crime Type 2020 2021 Change
Homicide 4 2 -2
Rape 14 9 -5
Robbery 88 83 -5
Aggravated Assault 208 241 33
Burglary 126 186 60
Larceny 2,475 2,420 -55
Grand Larceny from Auto 357 268 -89
Total 3,272 3,209 -63 (-2%)
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Steven Orellana, photo courtesy Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

Alexandria resident Steven Orellana was found guilty yesterday (Tuesday) for rape of a coworker in 2019.

The 32-year-old Orellana was dating the victim and they were coworkers, according to a press release from the Commonwealth Attorney’s office.

“The evidence established that, in 2019, the defendant forced a coworker whom he had been dating to engage in a sexual act against her will, inside of his Alexandria apartment,” according to a release. “The defendant is currently being held without bail in the William G.  Truesdale Adult Detention Center, pending a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 17, 2022.”

Orellana was arrested for the offense in 2019, and the trial was delayed by the pandemic. He was initially booked on August 15, 2019, and then released on $10,000 bond on August 27, 2019.

“The trial of the matter was significantly delayed by the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus,” the release said.

Orellana faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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Overall, Alexandria’s Part 1 crime rate is down 9% compared to 2020, but it’s still 8% higher than 2019, according to recently released figures.

Police released the city’s Part 1 crime statistics for 2021, as of Dec. 7, and included are the reported numbers of homicides, rapes, robberies, auto thefts, larcenies, burglaries and aggravated assaults.

There have been two homicides so far this year — a woman killed earlier this month and the stabbing death of a man in September. Both incidents occurred in the West End of the City.

Burglaries saw the biggest increase in number this year, with 39% more than in 2020 and 50% more than in 2019. Aggravated assaults increased 3% when compared to 2020, and 10% more than in 2019.

All other Part 1 crime has gone down. There have been 10 reported rapes so far this year, 16% less than in 2020 and 50% less than in 2019; Auto thefts have gone down 32% when compared to 2020, but just 5% more than in 2019; and with the holidays weeks away, larcenies are down 9% so far compared to last year, but 7% higher than in 2019.

The below numbers are not finalized and are subject to change.

Crime Type 2019 2020 2021
Homicide 2 3 2
Rape 20 12 10
Robbery 82 87 79
Aggravated Assault 196 208 215
Burglary 117 126 175
Larceny 2,093 2,473 2,244
Auto Theft 233 359 245
Total 2,743 3,268 2,970
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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Police say the COVID-19 pandemic had a lot to do with a 19% crime surge 2020.

Police released the city’s Part 1 crime statistics for 2020 on Tuesday, and included are the reported numbers of homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults.

“2020 provided a unique set of challenges,” Police Chief Michael Brown said in a statement. “Our officers dedicated themselves to protecting the City and community members, while working through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, both at home and on the job, as well the fallout and questions brought on by the death of George Floyd. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Violent crime reportedly increased 3.33% over last year. There were three three homicides in 2020, up one death over 2019, and aggravated assaults increased 6%, with 208 incidents reported.

Residential burglaries fell “drastically” while commercial burglaries climbed nearly 50%, “likely due to stores being temporarily closed or having limited hours,” according to police.

Vehicle thefts also increased 54%, and police said the cause is largely from owners leaving cars unattended and unlocked during the pandemic. Police also reported that few thefts from vehicles involved use of force.

“There are simple steps vehicle owners can take to reduce their risk of becoming victims. Check on your vehicle daily, make sure the doors are locked and there are no valuables inside,” Brown said. “You should also move the vehicle periodically to reduce the appearance it is not being used.”

Below are the 2020 and 2019 Part 1 crime stats for Alexandria:

Crime Type 2019 2020 Change
Homicide 2 3 1
Rape 20 12 -8
Robbery 82 87 5
Aggravated Assault 196 208 12
Burglary 117 126 9
Larceny 2,093 2,473 380
Auto Theft 233 359 126
Total 2,743 3,268 525
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It’s the end of a busy week in Alexandria.

Once again, crime and public safety stories were the most read on ALXnow.

On Friday, we found that the 19-year-old man arrested for the September 30 West End murder of John Harding Pope was released on bail just eight days before the murder. Pope’s death is the second murder of the year. In the first murder, Ibrahim Bouaichi was out on bail when he allegedly killed his former girlfriend.

On Thursday, the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office confirmed that two suspected ISIS terrorists are now in the city jail. Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh also made their initial appearances at the Eastern District of Virginia federal courthouse in Alexandria.

On the pandemic front, there are now 73 COVID-19 deaths in the city, and the Virginia Department of Health projects there will be 20,000 more cases statewide by Thanksgiving. The city also announced that residents impacted by the pandemic might also be eligible to receive $100-$400 in grocery gift cards.

On the school front, T.C. Williams High School’s student newspaper Theogony broke the story that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr. now sends one of his children to a private high school in the city.

Meanwhile, Alexandria was named the fifth best small city in U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler and made Forbes’ Weekend Getaway list.

Nearly 200 readers also participated in our weekly poll on passing out Halloween candy, and 60% said they would not hand out candy, 29% said they are doing modified trick-or-treating and 11% said they will hand out candy like usual.

If you need a good laugh, this Sunday at 8 p.m. there will be more COVID-friendly stand-up comedy in Old Town.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  2. BREAKING: Former Alexandria Nurse Jesse Bjerke Sentenced 65 Years For Raping Lifeguards at Gunpoint
  3. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  4. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  5. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  6. Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
  7. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  8. Delaware Woman Charged for Three Hit-And-Runs in Old Town and Driving Under the Influence
  9. Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
  10. Students, Parents Ask School Board to Not Renew Agreement Allowing Police at Alexandria City Public Schools
  11. Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion

Have a safe weekend!

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A 39-year-old Arlington man has been sentenced to 65 years in prison for raping two lifeguards at gunpoint in Alexandria and Fairfax County.

Jesse Bjerke, a former nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital, pleaded guilty last year to raping a lifeguard at a condominium complex swimming pool in the 200 block of Pickett Street on Labor Day weekend in 2016, as well as raping another woman in Fairfax County on August 1, 2014.

“The judgement shows an understanding for the violence and the pre-planning that went into these atrocious crimes,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. “I think it will serve our community since he can’t be a predator on any other woman.”

Alexandria Police were able to locate Bjerke using genetic geneology.

“A DNA profile was developed from the sperm located within the victim, but a search revealed no match in law enforcement databases,” according to the city. “After traditional attempts to identify a suspect were unsuccessful and all leads had been exhausted, the Alexandria Police Department contracted with Parabon® Nanolabs to have the suspect’s DNA analyzed using genetic genealogy. Parabon® investigators used a public access site called GEDmatch to search for relatives of the suspect. Using the list of relatives and the strength of the relationship, Parabon® was able to suggest one suspect for further investigation: Jesse Bjerke, the defendant.”

As part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, Bjerke admitted to raping a lifeguard in Fairfax in 2014, and both cases were tried simultaneously.

“When he is 65, he can apply for geriatric release,” Porter said. “But with my experience with violent crime that’s unlikely.”

Porter congratulated the police on finding the suspect.

“The police department really should be praised and did an outstanding job in corroborating that we have the right man,” he said. “And, of course, that led to a very solid case from an evidence standpoint, which in turn led to him taking responsibility for his crime.”

A description from the city of the 2016 incident is below the jump.

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