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A Fairfax County Fire and Rescue worker accepts change for the department’s annual “Fill the Boot” campaign (via FCFRD)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff yesterday (Tuesday) to study potential safety risks when people ask for help on street medians, following concerns from the public.

A memo will be delivered to the board by July 31 from a group of county staff, including representatives from the Fairfax County Police Department, the county’s transportation department, the Office of the County Attorney, and the Office to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Staff will include data-driven analyses about “whether or not there is a specific safety risk related to or stemming from panhandling” and recommend solutions if necessary, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said during a board meeting yesterday.

In a newsletter, McKay reiterated the county’s advice against donating to individual recipients, instead suggesting people give money to nonprofits that provide support services for those individuals.

During the board meeting, McKay added that passersby could also share their generosity in other ways to help people.

“We know that many of the people who are panhandling are not homeless individuals but rather are preying on the extraordinary generosity of our residents in Fairfax County,” McKay said.

He further recommended that motorists give people a piece of paper that lists available resources, such as social service centers.

“Small gifts of cash do not solve the issue of panhandling, but further exacerbate the matter,” McKay said in the newsletter.

McKay acknowledged that courts have ruled in favor of people asking for money on public property due to the First Amendment and that free speech must be protected. But he says he’s increasingly concerned about safety for all.

The move led to quarreling between McKay and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who said he’s been trying to get the board to address the issue for years.

In a newsletter, Herrity said county staff previously collected data and identified over 40 panhandling spots “where there is a public safety issue.”

Led by Herrity and then-Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, the county board directed staff to draft an ordinance disincentivizing panhandling in 2019. Later that year, the board considered putting up anti-panhandling signs, but that effort never came to fruition.

“For us to move forward so far only to start back at square one is a disservice to our residents and to every motorist and panhandler whose life is in danger in our medians each day we delay,” Herrity said in a statement. “We live in an increasingly urban suburb with very busy intersections where it isn’t safe for anyone to be interacting with motorists.”

Despite that statement, Herrity said he is fine with public safety groups using medians and intersections to conduct donations, as in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s “Fill the Boot” campaigns, which support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Officials noted that private property owners, such as malls, can restrict people from asking for donations.

Photo via Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department

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Morning Notes

Flowers and plants line tables on the side of Franconia Road in front of Edison High School for the athletic boosters’ spring flower sale, which runs through at least Memorial Day (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Starbucks Workers Vote Down Union — “A streak of unionizing at Starbucks has been broken, with workers at a store in Springfield, Virginia, voting against the union.” [NPR, Twitter]

Last Day for Donations — The donation drive to help Ukrainians that the Northern Virginia Regional Commission organized is coming to an end today. Donations can be dropped off in locations in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington and other locations. [Twitter]

Homes are Hot in Dunn Loring — “The Dunn Loring area was the hottest in the Sun Gazette’s Fairfax County coverage area in terms of home-buyer interest over the past month, according to new data.” [Sun Gazette]

Clean Up a Tysons Roadway — “The Great Falls Group @SierraClub will pick up litter & debris on 1.32 miles of Jones Branch Dr, Tysons Corner. Come out to meet & mingle with other Club members, & help clean up a roadway! Litter bags will be provided.” Pickup is on Saturday, 4/23, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.  [Twitter]

County Wants Input on Connector Changes — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a virtual community input meeting, Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 7 p.m on Fairfax Connector proposed service changes for October 2022. The public is encouraged to give feedback on the proposed changes via an online survey (survey begins Wednesday, April 20, 2022), email, mail and by phone through May 6, 2022.” [Fairfax County Government]

First County Poet Laureate Tenure Ends — “#FairfaxCounty, it’s been an honor to be your first poet laureate. I wrote this poem to mark the end of my tenure and delivered it at tonight’s Board meeting. Thanks for trusting me to serve, @artsfairfax !” [Twitter]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 47. Sunrise at 6:33 a.m. and sunset at 7:47 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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A patrol unit practices the precision immobilization technique (PIT) at a practice facility (via Fairfax County Police Department)

The Fairfax County Police Department is asking for the public’s help as it continues to train officers for how to handle potentially dangerous situations on the road.

The county’s Emergency Vehicle Operations Center, located in Chantilly south of the Dulles airport, is looking for used-vehicle donations for training exercises and driving simulations on its 1.1-mile roadway.

The facility is where officers get required training to perform the precision immobilization technique (PIT), a controversial maneuver for stopping high-speed vehicles that Fairfax County police have been using since 1988.

The facility also provides other kinds of training to 23 departments across the region, according to the ​Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy.

Donors can get immediate tax relief based on their vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book value. The tax deadline is April 18 this year due to the Emancipation Day holiday in D.C. falling on a weekday.

Fairfax County supervisors have been considering possible relief for a vehicle tax in its upcoming budget. Public hearings will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) through Thursday (April 14).

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Goodwill store in Fairfax (photo by David Taube)

A man is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in court on May 25 after allegedly setting the Fairfax City Goodwill store ablaze.

The 20-year-old Fairfax resident is charged with arson of an occupied building following a Jan. 17 fire at the used clothing and goods retailer, located at 9960 Main Street.

While the nonprofit’s insurance covered the damagees, which exceeded $18,500, the blaze required the store’s donation center to close for a day, resulting in lost revenue and much-needed donations, according to spokesman Brendan Hurley of Goodwill of Greater Washington.

“People are holding onto their goods longer, which means they’re donating less,” he told FFXnow.

At the same time, more people are shopping at Goodwill stores in the region, with sales up about 13.5% between the first quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022, which represents about 51,000 transactions, according to the nonprofit.

Hurley said in an email that the donations help the organization’s mission of also providing free job training, education, and employment services.

The defendant in the arson case was being held at the Caroline Detention Facility in Caroline County, as of March 7, in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He lives in Fairfax and worked at a pizzeria, according to court documents.

In January, the man allegedly stood in front of the parking area of the store and watched the fire grow for several minutes before leaving the area.

“The suspect in the video was wearing a full zip jacket with a half face ski mask and was periodically smoking a cigarette,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Bolton wrote in a March 22 court filing.

While fire investigators were on scene, the man allegedly returned and identified himself by name when questioned.

Police used surveillance video from cameras at the store in their investigation and arrested him Jan. 22, according to court documents.

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