Fairfax County officials are gearing up to expand the police department’s use of automated license plate readers (ALPR).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $136,270 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice today (Tuesday) to further support the program. The Fairfax County Police Department is seeking the expansion in response to a rise in violent carjackings and stolen vehicles, according to county staff.
The FCPD introduced the camera system last year with an eight-week trial period that placed the technology in two locations. This spring, the department installed another 25 readers, extending the trial through Oct. 31.
Over the last 13 months, county officials say the police department has recovered 125 stolen vehicles and 22 firearms using the technology. The system also reportedly helped find 19 missing persons.
“The placement of these systems into neighborhoods will foster new partnerships with the communities that have requested LPR support. It will also increase communications between police and the neighborhoods,” county staff said in a memo to the board.
The camera system comes from Flock Safety, which has installed ALPRs in more than 2,000 localities across the country.
The technology captures a vehicle’s license plate, color, make and model and sends a real-time alert to law enforcement if a stolen vehicle used in a crime matches records in the database.
County officials say the program doesn’t conflict with the county’s public trust and confidentiality policy, which aims to ensure that immigrant residents can utilize county services without the fear that information will be disclosed to federal immigration officials.
“The FCPD LPR program specifically prohibits users from using the system to identify, alert, or enforce any immigration related warrants, which is a practice that is reinforced in the training class and every time a user logs into the system,” county staff wrote.
The FCPD is permitted to store data for up to one year, but Flock Safety’s system only stores data for up to 30 days, FFXnow previously reported. The issue of data retention has been a subject of legal and legislative debate.
In 2019, a federal court ruled that an FCPD database of photos of vehicle license plates violated Virginia privacy law. A year later, the Virginia State Supreme Court overturned that decision. During its session this year, the General Assembly considered a bill that would limit how data from ALPRs is stored, but it was left in a senate transportation committee.
Reston Community Center has officially released a new website that aims to improve access to information and overall usability.
The website, which was created by United Experts, includes new design elements, compatibility with different screen sizes and devices, and a more user-friendly navigation menu.
“We devoted a year to research, designing a comprehensive [request for proposals] and issuing that solicitation,” RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said. “We received about a dozen proposals and analyzed them for how well they understood both RCC and our community, as well as how beautifully and functionally they addressed our challenges.”
The website is divided into three primary content categories: things to do, information, and facilities.
It also includes a new notification system that allows RCC to publish time-sensitive announcements easily. Digitized documents and publication archives are now fully searchable, and a help center is available for additional resources.
The website still connects with RCC’s two main platforms for purchases — myRCC, where users can look and register for the community center’s programs, and ETix, where users can buy tickets.
“RCC users gave us invaluable feedback,” board chair Beverly Cosham. “The outcome is as much a function of their input as of ours.”
Fairfax County’s efforts to establish more regulations for data centers are heating up.
With the industry continuing to grow in Northern Virginia, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) presented guidelines on issues like noise, water and air quality, energy demand and aesthetics to the Board of Supervisors’ land use policy committee on Tuesday (Oct. 17).
Currently, the county allows data centers by right — meaning they only need administrative approvals instead of going through a public hearing process — in industrial districts, along with medium or high-intensity office districts and some special planned districts.
Deputy Zoning Administrator Carmen Bishop said the county could consider establishing a maximum size that “would be allowed by right.” Larger sizes could be allowed with special exception approval.
“Now, of course, another option could be to require special exception approval for all data centers regardless of size,” Bishop said. “Other locational considerations could include setbacks, screening, additional screening requirements and other performance criteria.”
Data centers require generators, which can be noisy, according to county staff. To mitigate the noise impacts, Bishop said the county could consider requiring noise modeling, expanding existing equipment enclosure requirements and establishing standards for emergency generator usage and testing.
To protect water quality standards, the county could require monitoring before discharging to the wastewater system.
“If the monitoring indicates a need for pretreatment, then that could be required to be provided on-site,” Bishop said.
The DPD also proposed adding safety features for diesel handling and spill containment.
As for aesthetics, county staff suggested adding standards for facade differentiation, defined entrance features and screening.
Katie Hermann, the DPD’s environmental policy branch chief, said there could be added guidelines dictating LEED certification for data centers.
She said the county could also consider a salt management plan for exteriors spaces, maximizing tree preservation, and where applicable, establishing conservation easements or dedications to the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Loudoun County is the leading place in the country for data centers, with more than 100 projects, according to county staff. Fairfax County currently has at least 12 data centers, with five more in the pipeline and a controversial project in Chantilly nearing approval.
Research found that the demand for data centers is expected to double from 2022 to 2030.
Next Thursday (Oct. 26), the DPD will meet with the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s land use process Review Committee. Then, the department will put together a final report to submit to the board by December.
“We envision the board potentially directing staff to prepare proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan and or the zoning ordinance and those amendments would go through their own process, including public hearings before the Planning Commission and the board,” Hermann said.
Photo via Jordan Harrison/Unsplash
Qualtrics, a technology and data research company, has officially opened its doors in Reston.
The company, which provides artifical intelligence-driven software to assist businesses with customer and employee “experience management,” is adding an office to “serve as a hub for AI innovation and public sector growth,” according to a press release.
The office will take up more than 52,000 square feet across two full floors in Reston Station.
“Our expansion in Reston marks a significant milestone in Qualtrics’ growth and commitment to innovation, particularly artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin said.
The office design is based on the Capital Beltway with walking paths around each floor that mimic the highway, according to the company. The office also includes the Blues Cafe, a 40-seat work area that was inspired by D.C.’s historic jazz scene.
The Reston office marks an expansion for the company, which acquired Reston-based Clarabridge in 2021. Started in 2005, Clarabridge provides similar AI-powered text and speech analytics software.
“The opening of Qualtrics’ world-class East Coast office reinforces that Virginia’s tech sector is booming,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in the press release. “This new hub in Reston Station will allow Qualtrics to continue to capitalize on the Commonwealth’s pipeline of top talent.”
The company’s cloud-native software is used by more than 600 state, provincial and local government organizations. Its headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, and Provo, Utah, but it has offices around the world.
The fastest-growing company in Fairfax County is a Tysons-based cybersecurity firm whose stated goal is to “fundamentally change” how organizations get technical expertise.
MOXFIVE claimed the 39th spot overall and the top spot for the security industry on the latest Inc. 5000, an annual ranking of the country’s most successful privately owned companies based on their revenue growth.
This is Moxfive’s first time on the prestigious list, and among the 120 Fairfax County companies that got included this year, it has the highest ranking, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
“Our overall and security industry rankings on the Inc. 5000 list are an acknowledgement of our team’s determination and success in maintaining an unwavering commitment to changing an industry by obsessing over delivering a superior customer experience,” MOXFIVE CEO and founder Mike Wager said in a press release. “Appearing on the Inc. 5000 list is also validation that our Platform…is the future of the industry.”
Founded in 2019, Moxfive describes itself as a specialized technical advisory firm that assists other businesses with responding to cyberattacks and bolstering their information technology capabilities.
Headquartered in The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (1751 Pinnacle Drive, Suite 600), the company has seen its revenue grow 9,622% over the past three years, according to the 2023 Inc. 5000. It was also included on Inc.’s 2022 Best Workplaces list.
In a comment to the FCEDA, Wager lauded Fairfax County as “a fantastic area” to raise a family and start a business.
“We have been fortunate to achieve a great deal of success and I attribute much of that to the business environment in Fairfax County, which includes a tremendous amount of cybersecurity talent,” he said. “This has allowed us to find the people we need more easily and scale more quickly.”
Per the economic development authority, Fairfax County had 15 companies in the top 500 of this year’s Inc. 5000 and accounted for 44% of the 274 Virginia companies to make an appearance. The top 500 companies were featured in Inc. Magazine’s September issue, which hit newsstands on Aug. 23.
A technology company has officially opened 10,000-square-foot offices in Herndon.
Eqlipse Technologies, a company that provides products and engineering services to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, is set to celebrate its grand opening tomorrow (Thursday) at 2350 Corporate Park Drive.
Paul Frommelt, a spokesperson for the company, said the Herndon location was chosen because of its strategic location near major roadways, including Route 28, the Dulles Access Road and Fairfax County Parkway.
“The location…allows for employees from across the D.C. Metro area to conveniently commute into the office while enjoying our hybrid work options,” Frommelt wrote in a statement. “Additionally, we were able to build out our first-floor suite, taking advantage of modern workspace amenities, like collaboration spaces, vehicle charging stations and a gym for employee health and wellness.”
“Eqlipse is launching with a strong foundation built on decades of history and experience working with our customers, a growing portfolio of proprietary technologies, and a cadre of world-class subject matter experts pushing the art of the possible every day,” David Wodlinger, a managing partner of Arlington Capital Partners, said in a statement.
Reston Association is in the midst of finalizing a vendor to redesign its website, which has posed problems in the recent past.
Over the last few days, the website’s host platform “encountered an issue” that deleted the website’s navigation bar.
“The navigation bar was replaced multiple times over the weekend by RA staff, but the problem continues to occur,” RA Chief Operating Officer Peter Lusk said in a statement.
The website is now functioning. As of yesterday (Monday) afternoon, staff were continuing to restore more webpages.
The project to replace the website has been ongoing for more than a year. RA plans to launch a new website by the end of the first quarter of 2024, Lusk said.
Technological mishaps are not an anomaly for RA. Last year, Wipfli — a consulting firm hired by RA — flagged several issues, including a compromised email that resulted in $187,000 in losses, embedded malware that froze the website, and a server crash that caused an additional $26,000 in losses.
In 2020, RA’s website was abruptly taken down due to outdated technology and stability issues, including the loss of financial records and issues with backing up information. RA established the IT committee in March 2021 to review its technology services and needs.
The current website is run on a platform called Squarespace.
Sick of running into the same pothole whenever you leave the house? The Town of Vienna now has an app to help take care of that — as long as it’s within the town’s limits.
The town recently released a new Vienna Connect app that will serve as its new non-emergency service request platform.
The app aims to serve as a “more intuitive” platform to report issues with roads, trash, animals, construction sites and more, Vienna Information Technology Director Tony Mull said in the August issue of the town’s Vienna Voice newsletter.
In addition to being less intuitive, the previous platform encountered technical challenges when related software was upgraded, frustrating residents, elected officials and town employees alike, according to Town of Vienna spokesperson Karen Thayer.
“The Vienna Connect app provides seamless flexibility in reporting options (it works well via mobile devices and desktop computers), provides greater communication functionality than the old platform (internal and external communication features are included in the app) and it gives users the option of checking the status of their report/request online,” Thayer said by email.
It cost $12,000 to establish Vienna Connect. Since the app launched in mid-July, the town says it has already received 51 reports through it.
Reports will be monitored from 8 a.m.-4:40 p.m. on weekdays and responded to within a business day.
Vienna Connect also allows users to upload photos to accompany complaints. The app is available for download on Apple and Android devices. Service requests can also be filed online.
The town emphasizes that Vienna Connect is intended for service requests that are not urgent. Residents requiring police assistance should call 911 or the Vienna Police Department’s non-emergency police number at 703-255-6366.
Water and sewer-related emergencies can be reported to the town at 703-255-6366.
Fairfax County’s government is the place to beat when it comes to utilizing digital technology, according to a recent survey of the top digital counties in the U.S.
Fairfax County was ranked no. 1 among counties with populations of 1 million or more people by the Center for Digital Government for its 2023 Digital Counties Survey, knocking off King County in Washington after the original home of Amazon nabbed the top spot two years in a row.
The top ranking marks the culmination of a steady rise for Fairfax County, which came in fifth place for its category in 2021 and second last year. King County, which includes Seattle, took second place this time around.
“We are constantly coming up with new ways to make things easier for our residents and employees through technology,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay said in a July 25 newsletter highlighting the achievement. “We would like to thank and congratulate our Department of Information Technology and agency partners for all of the excellent work they have done, and we look forward to seeing the great work continue!”
A division of the data and media company eRepublic, the Center for Digital Government describes itself as a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policies and how they’re used by local and state governments.
The annual digital surveys, which include separate ones for states and cities, evaluate how different jurisdictions “are applying technologies to better serve their constituents,” the organization says.
After previously lauding Fairfax County for its cybersecurity efforts, the center says it managed to rise to the top this year thanks in part to an emphasis on data management and incorporation of data-based metrics into the Countywide Strategic Plan originally adopted in October 2021.
“Fairfax provided staff with training and policies about proper data collection and use, and conducted a data asset inventorying project so employees could more easily locate answers to internal questions,” the survey said. “Use of end-to-end encryption also preserves data privacy.”
Other accomplishments include a newly centralized “data lake” to support the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides treatment and other resources for individuals with mental health, substance use and developmental disability needs.
The survey also singles out the county’s new Planning and Land Use System, which consolidated zoning, permitting and other land use applications into one central database. The system fully launched last October after starting to roll out in 2020, though it encountered some initial technical challenges.
“The platform gives constituents a single spot for handling activities like submitting and tracking applications related to zoning, building, permitting and other land development areas, as well as paying fees or submitting complaints,” the survey said.
In addition, the Center for Digital Government was impressed by the county’s expanding use of geographic information systems (GIS) data. Over the past couple of years, it has used mapping technology to track everything from heat and flooding to development in Tysons and Reston.
In general, the D.C. region performed well in this year’s Digital Counties Survey, securing first place in all five population-based categories.
The leaders — including Arlington for the 150,000-249,999 people category and Prince William for 250,000-499,999 people — were united by their prioritization of collaboration and inclusion, Government Technology said when announcing the results.
“Collaboration and inclusion were critical factors to their success,” GovTech said. “Their commitment to equity ensured that the benefits of technological advancements were accessible to all residents, ensuring widespread access to resources and creating a more inclusive digital landscape.”
Photo via Adi Goldstein/Unsplash
ArtsFairfax wants you to help it keep track of all the public art popping up around Fairfax County.
The county’s designated, nonprofit local arts agency recently launched an online Public Arts Locator to identify and map out murals, sculptures and other installations placed in the community, either permanently or on a temporary basis.
The app currently shows 94 works of art, including a few that fall outside the county’s borders in Arlington and Manassas. It can be searched by location and different categories of art, such as murals or street fixtures.
Monitored by the nonprofit’s staff, the app is free for anyone to use and includes a survey where people can submit the address, images and descriptions of works of art that they’ve seen.
“If the artwork is available in a public setting and accessible day and night, we want it captured in this inventory,” said Lisa Mariam, ArtsFairfax’s senior director of grants and services and project lead for the Public Art Locator.
The locator was developed by ArtsFairfax and the county’s Department of Information Technology using aerial imagery, map layers and other geographic information systems data. It was designed by GIS analyst Chip Galloway, according to a July 13 press release.
ArtsFairfax says the locator was created in conjunction with its ongoing development of a public art master plan, which will serve as a “blueprint” for the county as it evaluates existing works and plans for future ones.
The app’s launch came on the heels of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors accepting a master art plan focused on facilities. Both that plan and the one on public art are being guided by the Fairfax County Arts Committee, which consists of both county staff and volunteers.
“The ArtsFairfax Public Art Locator will be a critical planning tool as we continue work on the County’s Public Art Master Plan,” ArtsFairfax president and CEO Linda Sullivan said. “By crowd-sourcing public art in our community, this inventory will help us identify where there are gaps and greater needs for community enhancement and creative placemaking.”