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A pedestrian tries to cross Duke St. at N. Jordan St. (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Vision Zero goal of zero roadway deaths and severe injuries is daunting, but the City announced that it closed 2023 with zero traffic fatalities.

In a release, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) noted that one year with zero fatalities does not a trend make or mean that the city should roll out the Mission Accomplished banner.

“For the first time since the City of Alexandria’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating roadway deaths and severe injuries was adopted in 2017, the City has ended the year with zero fatalities,” T&ES said in the release. “While this does not necessarily indicate a trend or suggest that the City’s goal has been accomplished, it is a major milestone that demonstrates Vision Zero is achievable.”

T&ES said there were still “over a dozen severe injury crashes” last year.

According to the release:

The people affected by these crashes are parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and these crashes can bring lifelong pain, disability, and trauma. Some victims of severe crashes may also succumb to their injuries later on. In at least one case in 2023, a crash victim is still fighting for their life in an intensive care unit. Roadway safety improvements can help prevent these kinds of tragedies.

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George Washington Middle School (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Twenty three Alexandria middle schoolers and eight Alexandria City High School students were arrested in the first two quarters of this school year, according to a report that the School Board will receive Thursday.

There were also 213 incidents requiring a police response, including five weapons-related incidents, 43 students needing EMS assistance, 56 fights/assaults and three reports of sexual assault.

Weapons seized include three stun guns/tasers, a pellet gun and a knife.

There were 17 students arrested in the first two quarters of the 2022-2023 school year (last year), and 41 arrested in the final two quarters, totaling 58 arrests and resulting in a 26% increase in students arrested over the previous school year.

Incidents, calls for service and arrests in Alexandria City Public Schools (via ACPS)

Of those arrested so far this year, 20 of them were Black students, making up 55%.

There were 95 incidents reported at the Alexandria City High School campuses, 70 incidents at the city’s two middle schools (Francis C Hammond and George Washington Middle Schools), 35 incidents at elementary schools and 13 incidents at K-8 schools.

There were also 118 police calls for service — 56 at the high school campuses, 46 at the middle schools, four at K-8 schools and 12 at elementary schools.

Racial or national origin composition of arrests within ACPS (via ACPS)

Incidents in the first semester of this school year include:

  • 57 incidents characterized as “other” (including two students discussing weapons, four cases of disorderly conduct, two reports of public intoxication, one fraudulent 911 call)
  • 56 fights/assaults
  • 43 injuries that required medical assistance
  • Five confiscated weapons
  • Nine controlled substances
  • Nine threats (verbal/cyber/social media)
  • Six missing student reports
  • Four reports of suspicious activity
  • Three alarms pulled
  • Three reports of sexual misconduct
  • Six thefts
  • Seven reports of possessing prohibited materials
Semester comparisons of crime incidents in ACPS (via ACPS)
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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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Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes is stepping down to take a new federal job, the city announced today. His last day is Feb. 9, and Assistant Chief Raul Pedroso will be interim police chief until a replacement is hired in a national search.

Hayes has been police chief since 2022, before which he was acting chief for a year after the departure of former Chief Michael Brown. He started his career with the Alexandria Police Department in 1981.

“It’s been an honor to dedicate my life to this community,” Hayes said. “I truly believe there is no greater calling than to serve on behalf of the people. Doing so alongside the men and women of this department for the past four decades has been my greatest accomplishment.”

Hayes’ new position has not been publicly announced. City Manager Jim Parajon called him a “capable” leader and “committed public servant.”

“He built upon years of experience to lead APD through some challenging times including ever-increasing demand for services,” Parajon said. “We wish him well in his next endeavor.”

Hayes restructured the department to resemble how it looked before his predecessor Chief Brown took over, by hiring three assistant chiefs and replacing a civilian assistant chief. The city also experienced a crime surge under his watch, and the department suffered diversity and morale issues.

According to the city:

Hayes joined the Alexandria Police Department in March 1981, and achieved the rank of sergeant in 1996, overseeing the community-oriented policing and internal investigations sections. In 1999, Hayes was promoted to lieutenant and led the special operations, information services, and public services divisions. He was promoted to captain in 2013 and served as patrol commander, in addition to heading the parking enforcement, traffic, special events, and community relations divisions. He was promoted to assistant chief in 2019 and has since used his diverse experience to oversee all parts of the Police Department. In December 2021, he was named acting Chief, and made Chief in April 2022.

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Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

Alexandria doesn’t have the resources to adequately cover the public safety aspect of the proposed Potomac Yard arena and entertainment district, sources in the Alexandria Police Department and Sheriff’s Office told ALXnow.

The city currently does not have the resources to cover the addition of the arena and entertainment district at Potomac Yard. The Alexandria Police Department has just over 300 officers, the Sheriff’s Office has around 165 deputies and the Fire Department has about 300 fire and rescue personnel.

The city is developing a “public safety and event services plan” to support large events while maintaining service for the rest of the city.

“The project team, which includes multiple city agencies, is developing a public safety and event services plan for the proposed entertainment district that will include deployment of City and regional resources to support the public during events in this area while maintaining full services for the rest of the City,” Ebony Fleming, the city’s director of communications, told ALXnow.

Last year, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, hired an additional 20% of off-duty D.C. police officers to handle security at games and events.

In the meantime, the Alexandria Fire Department is undergoing a restructuring, or redeployment, of resources. In 2022, more than 70% of AFD incidents were medical and rescue-related and just 15% were fire alarm and fire-related. Fleming says that the AFD Forward plan, which would redeploy resources around the city, will not be impacted by the arena.

“The arena will not impact AFD Forward,” Fleming said. “The Entertainment District project will include a fire and emergency medical services event services plan that will be developed to support the public in this area while maintaining full services for the rest of the City.”

Fleming did not provide a deadline for completion of the public safety and event services plan.

Fleming said that the police department is leading the law enforcement planning and that the Sheriff’s Office is “willing to support APD should they identify specific needs where Sheriff’s Deputies can enhance the public’s safety.” She also said that Sheriff Sean Casey is “confident a thorough needs assessment will be requested and conducted as part of the overall process.”

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Pendleton Street and N. Saint Asaph Street (image via Google Maps)

Four intersections along N. Saint Asaph Street, near the Trader Joes and Harris Teeter, could have new ‘no turn on red restrictions’.

A report (page 12) to the Traffic and Parking Board — ahead of a meeting tonight (Monday) — said the intersections along N. Saint Asaph Street can be a dangerous combination of pedestrian traffic around the grocery stores coming into conflict with traffic spilling off Washington Street.

According to the report:

North Saint Asaph Street between Pendleton and Montgomery Streets is a mix of residential and commercial uses, including two grocery stores, a hotel, and a few restaurants. There is often heavy foot and cyclist traffic around the Trader Joes and Harris Teeter grocery stores along this corridor. As North Saint Asaph Street is one block off of Washington Street, it is also used as an alternative route when traffic backs up, leading to an increased potential for pedestrian and vehicle conflict points.

The report said between 2016 and 2022 there were four crashes involving pedestrians. Three of the four involved a pedestrian experiencing visible injury due to a car collision, according to the report.

The new ‘no turn on red’ restrictions would affect turning onto N. Saint Asaph Street from:

  • Pendleton Street
  • Wythe Street
  • Madison Street
  • Montgomery Street

Turns would also be restricted onto those streets from N. Saint Asaph Street.

Of the public comments submitted on the proposed change, the majority were from neighbors in support of adding the ‘no turn on red’ restrictions.

‘No turn on red’ restrictions proposed along N. Saint Asaph Street (image via City of Alexandria)

Image via Google Maps

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East Abingdon Drive currently vs with a bike lane (image via City of Alexandria)

A report on Alexandria’s Complete Streets program highlighted work done over the last year and a peek ahead at new bike lanes, sidewalks, trail improvements and more.

The Complete Streets presentation (starting with slide 36) is headed to the Transportation Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 18, alongside a report on the city’s Vision Zero project and Safe Routes to Schools.

The look at what’s ahead included numerous trail and intersection improvements being worked on over the next year.

Among the projects on the docket for FY 2024 is the Old Cameron Run Trail: a planned shared-use path to connect the southern part of the Carlyle neighborhood to southern Old Town.

“This project will help address a major gap in the City’s trail system and provide a key link in the bicycle and pedestrian transportation system,” the project website said. “The goal of this project is to create a more direct and conflict-free connection for people walking and biking between the Eisenhower East and Southwest Quadrant neighborhoods.”

Design for the trail has been ongoing since 2020 and is scheduled to continue into 2025, with construction starting in spring 2025 and lasting until summer 2028.

The look-ahead also includes Mount Vernon Trail improvements at East Abingdon Drive, which could include replacing one lane of the street with bike lanes. The work plan for the upcoming year also included overall Mount Vernon Trail access improvements.

The King/Callahan/Russell Intersection Improvements also made an appearance. The project aims to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at the intersection near the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The project started last month.

More safety improvements are planned along King Street, with a new sidewalk and bike lanes considered near the Bradlee Shopping Center.

Complete Streets work plan for FY 2024 (image via City of Alexandria)

The report also provided a look back at work done in FY 2023, including:

  • 300+ linear feet of new sidewalk
  • 90+ new or upgraded crosswalks
  • 33+ intersections with added safety treatments
  • 100+ bike racks installed citywide
  • 1,800 linear feet of new or improved bike lanes

The report noted that some of that work included filling in missing sidewalk connections near George Washington Middle School and near NOVA Community College. The report said this year also saw the debut of the city’s “first contraflow bike lane” — a bike lane that runs counter to the flow of traffic.

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Alexandria Police at Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard Campus. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Public Schools saw a 26% increase in student arrests last school year, and a disproportionate number of arrested students are Black males.

There were 58 ACPS students arrested last school year, according to a school safety report to be presented to the School Board on Thursday. There were also 32 weapons-related incidents, 100 students injured, 112 fights/assaults and five reports of sexual misconduct.

The news follows an ACPS report revealing that most of Alexandria’s middle and high school students feel unsafe.

There were 451 incidents requiring a police response within Alexandria City Public Schools in the 2022-2023 school year — 188 incidents in the first two quarters of the year and 263 incidents in the final two quarters. That’s a 17% increase over the 385 incidents in the 2021-2022 school year.

While 25% of ACPS students are Black, most of those arrested are Black males.

Middle School Arrests (27)

  • Black male — 14
  • Hispanic male — 4
  • Black female — 4
  • Hispanic female — 3
  • White male — 2

High School Arrests (31)

  • Black male — 18
  • Hispanic male — 6
  • Black female — 4
  • White male — 3
  • Hispanic female — 2

Weapons seized include a handgun, two BB guns, stun guns, tasers, knives, pepper spray and a box cutter.

ACPS made a number of safety improvements in the 2022-2023 school year, like new ID requirements for students, designating entrances and exits at schools, installing metal detectors, and renewing its partnership with the police department to provide school resource officers.

Incidents in the 2022-2023 school year include:

  • 112 fights
  • 116 incidents characterized as “other” (parking lot accidents, trespassing, mental health episodes, property lost/damaged)
  • 100 injuries requiring medical assistance
  • 32 confiscated weapons
  • 21 reports of controlled substances recovered
  • 19 threats (verbal/cyber/social media)
  • 16 missing student reports
  • Seven reports of suspicious activity
  • Five alarms pulled
  • Five reports of sexual misconduct
  • Three thefts
  • One report of possessing prohibited materials

There were 175 incidents reported at the Alexandria City High School campuses, 183 incidents at the city’s two middle schools, 43 incidents at K-8 schools and 50 incidents at elementary schools.

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Speed camera locations around Alexandria (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s new speed cameras have already issued over 3,500 warnings. Soon, the city says those will become speeding tickets.

The City ran a two-week warning period at the end of the last school year and will start another one beginning Monday, Aug. 21, as the new school year starts. The City warned that the speed cameras will begin ticketing starting Sept. 18.

There are five cameras set up in school zones around the city:

  • Francis Hammond Middle School (Seminary Road, between Kenmore Avenue and North Jordan Street)
  • John Adams Elementary School and Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School (North Beauregard Street, between North Highview Lane and Reading Avenue)
  • George Washington Middle School (Mount Vernon Avenue, between Braddock Road and Luray Avenue)

“The City selected the above locations using a data-driven process that considered factors such as crash history, traffic volumes, vehicle speeds, and age and number of students,” the City said in a release. “Each school zone is approximately ¼ mile in length and has a 15 MPH speed limit when school signs are flashing, which is when the speed cameras will be active.”

The release noted that signs have been installed to inform drivers they are entering a speed camera zone.

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Curb extension (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria is considering some improvements to sidewalks to make it easier and safer for students to walk to school.

The City is considering curb extensions, which bump out the sidewalk at corners or mid-block to shorten the crossing distance, make pedestrians more visible, and slow turning vehicles. Curb extensions were recommended in the city’s Complete Streets Design Guidelines.

A walk audit conducted in 2017 at 13 schools also recommended curb extensions at multiple intersections.

The city is considering multiple extensions near four different schools:

  • Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 School: N. West Street and Princess Street
  • Mount Vernon Community School: Commonwealth Avenue’s intersections with Uhler Avenue, Mt. Ida Avenue, Groves Avenue and Forrest Street
  • Patrick Henry K-8 School: N. Jordan Street and Taney Avenue
  • Samuel Tucker Elementary School: Cameron Station Blvd

The city is developing a grant application to fund the design and construction of the curb extensions. A survey is available online and the grant application deadline is later this fall. If the funding is approved, the design work could start next year, with construction from 2025-2026.

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