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Fairfax police taking steps to address issues in McLean, Tysons

McLean Citizens Assn. briefed on upticks in several areas

Crime is up in several categories and officers with the Fairfax County Police Department’s McLean District Station are taking multiple steps to combat it.

The station’s leaders briefed the McLean Citizens Association about ongoing crime trends and countermeasures at a Nov. 15 forum at the McLean Community Center.

Lt. William Arnest, the station’s assistant commander, kicked off the meeting with some five-year crime averages, which he said had been skewed by the pandemic years. The McLean station’s officers responded to more assaults in recent years, Arnest said.

“Almost all of our assaults are people known to each other,” he said. “Many of them are domestic-related . . . In our area, there isn’t a problem of strangers assaulting strangers.”

Burglary offenses also are up, many of them related to possession of burglarious tools. The station’s officers have responded to about 50 per year over the last five years, but this year are up 35 over last year’s total.

Many of those figures stem from cases investigated by the police department’s Tysons Urban Team (TUT).

“The shoplifters are specialized in what they do and they’ll have different tools for breaking into merchandise [and] removing security sensors,” he said. “Those are charged as burglarious tools. So unfortunately, that goes into our crime statistics for burglary, but it doesn’t relate at all to home burglaries.”

Technology – including alarm systems, surveillance cameras and license-plate-reading equipment – greatly has improved the chances of catching home burglars, Arnest said. Residents can ask county police to perform security assessments to make their homes safer.

“The biggest deterrent is to give the illusion that you are always home,” said Master Police Officer Carolyn Beyer, the station’s crime-prevention officer. An audible glass-breakage alarm also will send thieves scurrying, she said.

But alarms that are not turned on are useless, said station commander Capt. Carolyn Kinney, adding that residents should alert police about suspicious vehicles in their neighborhoods.  Homeowners should not confront burglars, but call police instead, she said.

Destruction-of-property offenses also are up from last year, as well as the five-year average, Arnest said.

“What we have a lot of are car windows getting broken into,” he said.

After breaking into a vehicle, the perpetrator often will press the ignition button, on hopes that a key fob is in the vehicle and will allow it to be stolen, Arnest said. Other common targets in car break-ins are valuables and credit cards, which thieves then use to buy expensive merchandise.

Local merchants often call them if people in their stores are trying multiple credit cards and refusing to show identification.

The McLean District Station has investigated nearly 3,000 larcenies, which is more than 400 more than last year and up 600 over the five-year average, he said.

Sixty-three percent of those larcenies involve shoplifting, 10 percent are thefts from motor vehicles and 4 percent stem from theft of motor-vehicle parts, especially catalytic converters and air bags. The station’s larceny arrests are “way up,” Arnest said, thanks largely to TUT.

“It’s good to see a lot of these people, who are traveling regionally or up and down the East Coast, and they come to the Tysons area and that’s where their crime spree ends,” he said. “We’ve recovered tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, a lot of which has been stolen from other jurisdictions.”

TUT already has made 1,150 arrests this year, up from 850 at the same point in 2022, Arnest said. The team doubled in size and began covering Tysons Corner Center every day of the week after a gang member fired three shots in the mall last year, he said.

Narcotics cases are up compared with last year, but lower than the five-year average, due largely to marijuana decriminalization. Fentanyl is a serious problem in Fairfax County, but less so in the area covered by the McLean station. There are many people in the 16-to-25 age range who are addicted to the potentially lethal drug.

“Fentanyl is becoming by far the main issue, drug-wise,” Arnest said. “People who are hooked on it will do whatever they can to get money to get it.”

Officers at the McLean station typically use Narcan about one per month to aid someone  suffering from an opioid overdose, but the Fire and Rescue Department does this much more often, Arnest said.

Opioid overdoses are down somewhat, possibly because more people are smoking drugs than taking them intravenously, which packs a stronger punch, he said.

Counterfeiting offenses are down, both this year and compared to the five-year average. Merchants in Tysons know to call TUT when people are trying to pass fake bills, Arnest said.

Crimes related to drunkenness are down somewhat from last year, but slightly up from the five-year averages. The same holds true for fraud offenses, but those often change, Arnest said.

Motor-vehicle thefts are down slightly this year. Many occurred at dealerships and police are working with those businesses to safeguard their inventory, he said.

McLean officers have responded to some bias incidents, most of which involved offensive written or spoken words, not physical attacks or major property destruction, Arnest said.

“There’s a lot of ignorant people out here, I would say, that are using words that shouldn’t be used in any society and they say these in anger a lot of times or they write them sometimes,” Kinney said. “Neither one’s acceptable, but there’s a big difference between those types of incidents and crimes where people actually follow through on something.”

McLean District Station has 96 officers, including nine in training. County police still are below full strength, with 1,337 officers out of a potential capacity of 1,492, but the situation is better than last year, Kinney said. There now are 53 recruits in the police academy and another session will be starting shortly, she said.

Some who attended the meeting said it was hard to get a bead on McLean’s crime figures when ones from Tysons were included. Kinney said county police will be redistricting police areas when the South County District Station in Lorton opens next year.

Redistricting “will cut down on our patrol areas, which is good,” she said. “We’ll have more officers for less space, which makes us happy.”

Kinney did not have statistics on how often people officers arrested were not prosecuted by the Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“It’s starting to get a little bit better, but it is sometimes a disappointment when you’re doing this work and then [suspects receive] these slaps on the wrist,” she said.