West Springfield Station Officers Launch 2013 Initiatives
In an effort to lower crimes rates, officers are stepping up enforcement and educational efforts.
Police officers with the West Springfield District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department are implementing new initiatives that combine stronger police enforcement and educational tactics as part of an effort to keep crime levels low in the district.
According to Capt. Joe Hill, commander of the station, most of the trending crime in the station in 2012 compared to 2011 has decreased, but the station continues to monitor certain crimes that are on the rise.
One of those issues is DWI-related accidents. While the overall numbers are down, Hill said the number of alcohol-related crashes have not decreased as much as the station would like.
The last two DWI checkpoints conducted by the station, Hill said, resulted in nine total arrests (five in the first, four in the second). To help alleviate traffic issues and curb the number of accidents, Hill said the station will be focusing on stronger enforcement in targeted areas of the community to bring the numbers down in 2013.
As part of their initiative to bring crime down in 2013, the officers plan to set up several meeting booths in the community where residents can speak with officers one-on-one about a variety of issues. Hill said the officers began this type of outreach late last year.
“It’s been a very successful program so far,” said Hill.
Financial Crimes on the Rise
According to Lt. Christian Quinn, police began noticing an increase in thefts from vehicles parked at the RECenters around Thanksgiving. However, Quinn noted that the activity likely began in late summer/early fall. In earlier January, officers saw an even bigger increase in activity and upped efforts to catch the suspects responsible for thefts.
Thanks to surveillance, police arrested two suspects who matched descriptions of two people caught on video surveillance for prior fraudulent transactions involving other stolen credit cards. The suspects, Ric Rashid Alston, 36, from Riverdale, MD and Bonnie Marie Stauffer, 33, also from Riverdale, MD, were later arrested and charged with credit card fraud and credit card theft and held without bond, according to Quinn.
Despite the arrests, Hill said police believe there are still thieves targeting other RECenters in the county.
“[We] are actively following up on tips and interviewing clerks where stolen credit cards have been used. Several persons are believed to be involved but it is unknown at this time if they are acting independently or related in any way to each other,” said Quinn.
Hill and Quinn both stressed the importance of locking up valuables and protecting personal items such as wallets when visiting public spaces such as RECenters.
“If you don’t need to bring something valuable with you to the recenter, leave it at home. Don’t bring it or pay to lock it up,” said Quinn.
According to police, thieves are breaking into vehicles and removing debit and credit cards without the owner realizing it.
“They break in, nothing looks out of place, and the person doesn’t realize their debit or credit card is missing until they go to the bank or go to use it and can’t find it. By then it’s too late and the thief has already used the card," said Quinn. “
When financial crimes occur, Hill said they want residents to reach out to the police so they can help and find the person(s) responsible. By reporting the thefts, police are able to track the crimes and identify patterns, which gives them more to work with to identify and catch suspects.
Master Police Officer J.T. Frey recommends residents keep a list of their valuable items, take photos, and write down serial numbers for items such as laptops, cameras, etc. when possible. This way, if an item is stolen, the police will be able to easily identify and track it.
While financial crimes such as thefts have increased, one related crime has decreased: bank robberies. According to Lucy Caldwell with the police department’s public information office, bank robberies are down from 30 in 2011 to eight in 2012.
Another area police will focus on in 2013 is pedestrian safety. To increase awareness and encourage pedestrians and motorists to stay alert, officers will take a heavy educational approach with residents. To help educate the community, police are handing out fliers, called backpack notes, and using visual enforcement at key intersections and using media and email blasts to spread awareness.
“We want to get people to stop running across the streets and use the crosswalks, especially near schools,” said Hill.
Overall, Hill said he and his officers want members of the community to remember to remain and vigilant about crime and notify police of situations that may require a police response.
To learn more about the West Springfield District Station, visit their page on the county's website.