The Fairfax County Police Department is partnering with Zencity to roll out a community survey tool that markets itself as a way to “reimagine” local policing.
Chief of Police Kevin Davis described Zencity Blockwise as a tool to measure public sentiment and build trust in the community at a press conference yesterday (Monday) to provide more information about the new countywide initiative. He was joined by Zencity Chief Strategy Officer Michael Simon.
“When we partnered with Zencity, we wanted to take that next step and better capture community feedback, community sentiment,” Davis said. “And we want to make sure that the things we do as a police department are in line with the expectations of our broader community.”
Zencity Blockwise is already used by other police departments across the country, including Chicago and San Diego, but it represents an evolution of public engagement tools utilized by FCPD.
Davis noted that just over a year ago, FCPD piloted My90, a community performance feedback tool designed to measure residents’ satisfaction with FCPD following an interaction with law enforcement.
However, Davis explained that, unlike that previous survey, Blockwise captures “sentiment about policing that is not pursuant or following a police interaction.”
Instead, the tool works to limit FCPD’s “blindspots” around residents’ everyday needs by increasing public access to local law enforcement and providing a platform for citizens across a vast and diverse jurisdiction to voice their concerns, according to Davis.
“The way to ensure that we have a more representative voice in the community is to reach as many people as humanly possible,” Davis said. “So people who don’t typically attend community meetings, people who don’t typically have interactions with their police departments, but they certainly do feel a certain way about public safety and about their police department.”
To assist in the FCPD’s goal of increasing its reach, Zencity uses census data to divide Fairfax County into its eight patrol regions and serve randomized digital advertisements to all devices across the county, according to Simon.
The advertisements encourage residents to submit an anonymous two-minute feedback survey that asks open-ended questions about the FCPD in eight different languages.
“You’ll see an advertisement that solicits your feedback wherever you may be on the internet,” Simon said. “That ad is targeted at you because we need you to fill a demographic and geographic quota that represents what the census data tells us about each individual neighborhood.”
The FCPD will then analyze the results to more effectively address the community’s most urgent needs based on the voluntary information provided by county residents. Drawing a parallel to other law enforcement technology that tracks local crime patterns to lower crime rates, Simon explained that Zencity measures three key indicators: fear of crime, trust and priority.
After enough data has been collected to establish a baseline, the survey results will be continually updated and posted to the FCPD’s open data portal, which already has data related to subjects such as use of force and internal retention rates, according to Davis, who emphasized a commitment to community transparency.
Since launching on Thursday, June 1, the survey has already received around 300 responses. Simon said Zencity hopes to garner 1,500 responses every month.
He also hinted that Zencity and FCPD will potentially pilot end-of-survey questions about respondents’ contact information, but for now, the service will be “one-directional.”
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) The future of two structures built on Elden Street around 1888 is now in limbo.
The longstanding Adams-Green Funeral Home is appealing the Town of Herndon’s decision to deny an application to demolish two homes on 725 Elden Street. The Herndon Town Council will consider the appeal at a work session tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m.
At an April 19 Historic District Review Board meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to deny the application on the grounds that both structures contribute to the historic character of the area and qualify as national and state landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
The board also noted that both structures are connected with “historically significant” members of the community.
“The demolition of the 725 Elden Historic Structures could adversely affect the historic district as a whole and particularly adversely effect important view sheds of the historic district and the townscapes of Herndon,” the April 19 resolution denying the application said.
But the funeral home argues that the board failed to follow the requirements of the town’s zoning ordinance and take into a consideration a structural engineer’s report.
“The HDRB failed to consider the long-standing business of the funeral home location at the present site which is a fixture in the historic district and which needs to have additional space to continue to operate its business at the current site,” the appeal says.
The funeral home first filed the application to demolish the two buildings in 2020. The filing was completed in January after town staff asked the applicant to file a site plan showing how it would stabilize the property after demolition.
An engineering analysis by Goughnour Engineering found that the “dilapidated” building is “not a candidate for renovation or reuse.”
Both buildings are located in the Herndon Historic District. They were built in the late 1800s by Charles Reed, a prominent member of the community at the time. His family also started the first funeral business in the town.
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In response to burgeoning needs, Reston Hospital Center is poised to expand a key facility that serves its youngest patients.
The center will expand the capacity of its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) this year from 16 to 29 patient beds. The expansion is also intended to provide more privacy for patients and their families.
The expansion includes seven private rooms and three semi-private rooms, according to the hospital.
“The NICU expansion is happening due to capacity needs in the community and to create a more private patient experience,” Jess Norman, a Reston Hospital spokesperson, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.
The expansion is slated to finish off sometime in November or December of this year, Norman said.
In addition to more beds, the expansion includes new equipment, furniture, a family waiting area, and nurses’ station.
Children’s National Hospital in D.C. cares for patients in the NICU at Reston Hospital. Its program is composed of neonatologists and hospitalists in the nursery and delivery room.
Dulles Toll Road Ramp to Beltway Closed Overnight — “Between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. starting Monday, June 5, and continuing nightly through Friday, June 9, 495 NEXT project crews will close the ramp from the westbound Dulles Toll Road to northbound I-495. The nightly ramp closure is necessary to safely allow crews to conduct joint repairs at the top of the ramp to the Beltway lanes.” [VDOT]
Metro Halves Fares for SNAP Recipients — “Low-income residents who are enrolled in SNAP benefits will qualify for a new Metro half-off fare discount. The program, called Metro Lift, starts June 20…The transit agency estimates more than 90,000 riders will benefit from Metro Lift, which is estimated to cost about $4 million, but is expected to generate an additional 1.6 million trips.” [DCist]
FCPS Seeks to Address Crowding at Glasgow MS — “Glasgow Middle School Principal Victor Powell is planning to implement several strategies to address overcrowded hallways and unsafe bathrooms at the school by fall 2023…Several parents said their students are afraid to go to the bathroom at school because of what goes on inside, such as fights, vaping, and vandalism.” [Annandale Today]
Tysons Hotelier Returns to Fortune 500 — “Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) jumped back this year into the Fortune 500 following a two-year absence, showing that demand for travel and accommodations continue to grow in a dramatic way since the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic.” A total of 19 D.C. area companies made the list, which is based on fiscal year revenue. [Washington Business Journal]
Capital Bikeshare Ridership Hits All-Time High — “Capital Bikeshare had its highest ridership month of all time in May with more than 428,000 rides, signaling a return to normalcy after the pandemic. It beats the previous record of 408,000 rides set back in September 2018.” [DCist]
Renovations of Richmond Highway Schools Finished — “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) joined elected officials, school staff, students and community members May 25 in celebrating the completion of capital projects at three schools…Back-to-back ribbon cuttings were held at West Potomac High School, Hybla Valley Elementary School and Washington Mill Elementary School.” [On the MoVe]
Funding for Richmond Highway BRT Recommended — “It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the overall projected cost of $900 million, but the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission has agreed to kick in $20 million to support creation of a bus-rapid-transit system between Fort Belvoir and the Huntington Metro station in the Route 1 corridor.” [Gazette Leader]
Early Fourth of July Fireworks Planned in McLean — “WE’VE GOT A DATE! Our Community Independence Day Fireworks Celebration will be on Saturday, July 1, from 6:30-10:30 p.m. at Langley High School There will be food trucks, music, giveaways and more! Fireworks begin at approximately 9:15 p.m.” [McLean Community Center/Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. Northwest wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. At night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 58. North wind 6 to 9 mph. [Weather.gov]
A project to reduce light pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory will soon kick off.
The project, funded by the Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant Program, will provide $7,515 to retrofit 26 light bollards to replace current fixtures with LED lights.
“The retrofit project will position Turner Farm Park to apply for designation as one of seven Urban Night Sky places by the International Dark Sky Association,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said last week.
The Analemma Society, which conducts astronomy and science education programs for more than a decade at the observatory, will pitch in a little over $5,100 toward the retrofit.
When applying for the grant, representatives of the Analemma Society explained that the retrofit is the “last piece” needed to meet the criteria for an Urban Night Sky Place, a label awarded to parks, open space or observational sites near an urban environment that “actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light.”
The park began the application process to obtain the designation over two years ago.
“Light pollution is a major environmental problem,” the grant application said. “This project aims to reduce light pollution by creating demonstration lights showing proper dark sky lighting design to help educate the public on this. In doing so it also improves the lighting at the observatory to provide better views of the night sky for participants in our astronomy outreach programs.”
The park is located at 925 Springvale Road in Great Falls.
The grant was officially approved by the park authority’s board of directors on May 31.
The board also approved roughly $2,400 for improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean. It will fund the installation of 230 linear feet of black privacy slats on the existing pickleball courts to create a windscreen for players.
The Mastenbrook grant program supports public-private ventures. Grant amounts range from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.
The county is in the midst of changing light regulations around the observatory. The draft policy aims to amend zoning standards for outdoor lighting within a half-mile of the observatory.
Fairfax County’s child welfare system has seen abuse and neglect cases surge over the past year, taxing the dozens of volunteers charged with advocating for those children in foster care and court.
As of May, over 188 new kids have been placed in foster care or under a protective court order since July 1, 2022 — nearly double the 98 cases added the previous year, according to Fairfax CASA, a nonprofit that trains and supervises volunteer, court-appointed special advocates for children.
With a waitlist of about 50 children, as of last week, the organization says it urgently needs more volunteers, particularly Black, Hispanic and Spanish-speaking individuals.
“It’s such an important program,” Fairfax CASA Executive Director Darcy Hubbard said. “It really does change the outcome for our most vulnerable kids, and we desperately need people right now.”
Fairfax CASA currently has about 140 volunteers assigned to cases referred by the Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court. They work with attorneys and social workers to help each child get the services they need, increasing their chances of finding a safe, permanent home, according to the nonprofit.
Cases have become more complex
All of the cases are serious, since an advocate doesn’t get involved until after the court has determined a child was abused or neglected. But the issues facing families have grown in complexity this year, limiting most volunteers to one case at a time, Hubbard says.
About 60% of cases now involve domestic violence, compared to the typical rate of 30%, and cases where substance use or mental health issues are factors have also increased. For example, CASA got five cases with babies born with drugs in their bloodstream last year; this year, there have been 32 babies.
According to Hubbard, struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses have increased for both parents and kids, particularly adolescents, which tracks with Fairfax County and national reports. Alcohol consumption and fentanyl use have also gone up during the pandemic.
“In addition to the trauma and the stuff that’s going on in their families, I think whatever is going on in the world has piled on to all the kids, and for our kids, it hits them extra hard because they don’t have some of the protective factors that other children have,” such as an adult they can rely on or a sense of security at home, Hubbard said.
She emphasized that mental health and substance use issues don’t justify opening a child welfare case, but the county government and court will intervene if those challenges rise to the level of endangering the kid’s wellbeing.
“Usually, the [Department of Family Services] is well-aware of the family and has been trying to work with them and help them for a long time,” she said. Read More
Another race is in the mix of Reston’s racing options: the Women’s Training Festival 5K.
On June 25 at 9 a.m., women will take part in the event, which is specifically designed with women in mind.
Culminating an eight-week training program, the event is open to runners of all proficiencies, although those only 12 and up can participate.
“The Women’s Training Festival is a 5K race culminating 8 weeks of hard work by 175 women who train every Monday evening from 6:30-8. At the end of the 8 weeks we run a 5K to celebrate all of their hard work, supported by coaches and volunteers. Hence, the Women’s Training Festival 5k,” Jen Dryzga, a race organizer, wrote.
The course goes over the hilly trails of Reston. The meet-up point will be at 11400 South Lakes Drive.
Although 175 of the runners are part of the training program, there are a total of 250 spots available to walkers and runners in the non-competitive race.
The race is the latest addition to the Racing in Reston series, which is organized by CORE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to a address charitable needs. Other races in the series include the 37th annual Reston Olympic Triathlon and the Reston Spring Triathlon.
Reported Boom Came From Military Planes — “Fighter jets caused a sonic boom heard and felt throughout the D.C. area after they were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews to intercept a Cessna jet that flew over” D.C. and later crashed in southwest Virginia yesterday. Fairfax County’s police and fire departments were among the emergency responders that got reports of a loud noise around 3 p.m. [NBC4]
Student Repping Fairfax County Finishes Second at Spelling Bee — “Charlotte Walsh, an eighth-grader representing Fairfax County, was the runner-up in the 95th Scripps National Spelling Bee. Walsh, 14, from Compass Homeschool Enrichment, based in Herndon, survived 13 rounds of spelling and word definitions before being tripped up by ‘daviely’ in the 14th round of the finals Thursday night.” [Inside NoVA]
No Injuries Reported in McLean House Fire — On Friday, “#FCFRD [was] on the scene of an house fire in the 6000 blk of Chesterbrook Rd in the McLean area. Units arrived w/ heavy fire showing from the back of home & extending to the attic. All occupants accounted for. No reported civilian or firefighter injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
Reston Advisory Committee Leader Clashes With Police Chief — “Bob Sledzaus resigned as the chairman of the Reston Community Advisory Committee on May 23, citing Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis’ decision to prohibit the recording and livestreaming of committee meetings.” Davis said in April that virtual/hybrid committee meetings will end on Sept. 1, after which recording or live-streaming will be prohibited. [Patch]
Vale Road Closures Through Thursday — “Vale Road (Route 672) between West Ox Road (Route 608) and Fox Mill Road (Route 665) will have stormwater pipe replacement work, weather permitting, Monday, June 5 through Thursday, June 8.” The closure timing will vary, starting today with the section between Cobb Hill Lane and Foxvale Drive between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. [VDOT]
Mount Vernon Bank Relocates Due to Highway Widening — “Wells Fargo has officially opened its Cooper Center branch after relocating there from a building nearly diagonal across Richmond Highway. According to Wells Fargo spokesperson Kenrick Thomas, the bank moved…after the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) exercised eminent domain rights and bought the Colonial Revival-style building…where the bank previously was located.” [On the MoVe]
New Student Representative Chosen for School Board — “Rida Karim, a sophomore at Woodson High School, has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1. Karim will participate in School Board meetings as a nonvoting member” [FCPS]
Free Ice Cream at The Boro Tonight — Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams will host a “Hello Summer Party” from 7 p.m. to closing time at all of its locations, including at The Boro (1669c Silver Hill Drive). The first 25 visitors will get free swag bags, and anyone who downloads the business’ app can get a free scoop. [Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams/Facebook]
It’s Monday — Mostly sunny, with a high near 79. North wind 6 to 9 mph. At night: Mostly clear, with a low around 59. West wind 5 to 7 mph. [Weather.gov]
Fairfax County Public Library is kicking off its summer reading program with a different approach this year.
The Fairfax Library Foundation will launch its inaugural Children’s Summer Reading Festival at two libraries this month to celebrate the beginning of FCPL’s annual summer reading program.
“We hope these festivals help get Fairfax County kids and adults excited for our Summer Reading Adventure,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “This year’s summer reading theme is All Together Now so we thought throwing a huge party would be a good fit! Thank you so much to the Fairfax Library Foundation for organizing these festivals.”
The first festival takes place on June 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lorton Library (9520 Richmond Highway). The second event takes place on June 24 from 4-7 p.m. at Chantilly Regional Library (4000 Stringfellow Road).
We are so excited to announce the launch of an exciting new event to kick-off @fairfaxlibrary’s summer reading program this year. Join us for the fun on June 10 at Lorton Library or June 24 at Chantilly Regional Library. Details here: https://t.co/Z4PODbulh5 pic.twitter.com/Z4vrGlrw0O
— Fairfax Library Foundation (@FLFoundation) May 19, 2023
The festival will include games, crafts, a bounce house, mini zoo, snacks, face-painting, food trucks and a photo booth.
Although both festivals are free, online registration is encouraged.
Registration for the summer reading program opens online on June 10. Paper logs will be available at all branches before the program kicks off on June 16. Individuals who register early will get priority for raffle entries to win Scrawl Books gift cards.
Adults who finish the program will get a coupon book and will be entered into other raffles for $25 gift cards for AMC, Barnes & Noble and VISA, along with other prizes — including four tickets to Escape Room Herndon.
In Chantilly, the festival will be followed by a free outdoor screening of Disney’s “Frozen: Sing-Along Edition,” Fairfax Library Foundation Development Director Cheryl Lee said.