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Discussion Title State of Crime in Fairfax County: Chat with the Chief

Fairfax County Police recently released crime data shows that we are enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the nation for jurisdictions of this size. Still, challenges remain. Data indicates that drug offenses and calls for service involving mental health issues are on the rise. Police Chief Colonel Edwin C. Roessler, Jr. will answer your questions about these public safety issues and more at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6. Join us to learn more about how you can make a difference in keeping your community safer.


Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Hi - Welcome to our chat today.  As your Chief of Police, I thank you in advance for providing me input so we can better serve our community.

Ed Roessler


Concerned Families of Fairfax County : It's not surprising there has been an increase in mental-health-related police calls, considering how difficult it is for families and individuals to obtain mental health services. Having a CIT-trained officer responding to a call invoving a person struggling with mental illness can make all the difference in the outcome. What is the status of CIT training and refresher training for Fairfax County officers?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : The national goal in law enforcement is to train 25% of a patrol force in crisis intervention training.  Your police department's strategic goal is to have 100% of our patrol force trained in CIT.  We are aggressively achieving this goal by training current patrol officers and all future recruits.

Currently the Fairfax County-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) does three 40 hour CIT classes per year.  The most recent was in October of this year.  The next one is scheduled for January 2014.  Each class has about 35-40 officers in it.  Currently, 45% of the patrol force is trained in CIT.  There normally are always several CIT trained patrol officers trained within each of the District stations at any given time.  In addition nearly all first line supervisors and all School Resource Officers have received the training.


Annandale resident : Why do you think there are so many bank robberies here and what are you doing to address this growing problem?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. :

Bank robberies have declined significantly in the last few years in Fairfax County. The Major Crimes Division’s Robbery Squad is responsible for investigating all bank robberies. As always, we continue to work closely with the bank institutions, neighboring police agencies, crime analysts, the FBI and our own district stations and patrol officers to respond to and follow up on these crimes.

Contrary to perceptions, we do not have a lot of bank robberies compared to other jurisdictions our size.  There are 13 bank robberies reported so far this year compared to previous years we are way down (5 of this year’s cases were committed by one suspect). According to FBI statistics, bank robberies have been on the decline.  Please see http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications


Brandi : In which part of the county do the majority of drug or mental health calls come from and are the number of police assigned to those areas proportionate with the level of need for the area?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Mental health and drug use is a problem nationally and the county is no different as far as the number of calls for service.  Each station has a robust minimum staffing requirement to handle these calls.  Additionally, we provide training to our officers and work with relevant partner agencies to educate, prevent, and enforce associated laws and or deliver services to assist in getting those in need well.


Anonymous User : As a resident within Mason District where there has been a recent series of house break-ins in recent days, might you comment what residents might do to help officers apprehend the burglar beyond making sure windows/doors are locked? thank you

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : We strongly encourage residents to contact police if they see anything that doesn’t look right. Anything out of place. Keep curtains/blinds on ground level closed. Don’t let a would-be burglar see what’s inside. Invest in security measures such as an alarm system and/or good locks. Feel free to contact your station Crime Prevention Officer, Brendan Murphy for more information.  We need help to detect and prevent a burglary; if you see something, call us.


Joe Chudzik : Will the Police Department enforce Article 12 (Signs) of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance? Placing advertising signs in the road right-of-way; on utility poles; and directional signs is prohibited and is a Class 1 Misdemeanor under Article 12. The penalty is $250 for each violation. Many citizens have complained about the proliferation of illegal advertising and political campaign signs placed along our neighborhood streets and highways. Regretablly, the county's sign removal program has failed to mitigate the blight nof illegal advertising signs and the violators continue to place signs with impumity! The Board of Supervisors recently budgeted $150,000 and directed the Fairfax Sheriff''s Community Labor Force to remove illegal advertising signs from certain streets. The list of county streets however, does not include any streets on Mason Neck, in my neighborhood in Mt. Vernon District. In my testimony at the BOS Public Hearing on February 26, I suggested that the county need not remove the illegal advertising signs, but instead, have the violator remove the signs. Call the telephone number (most signs have it) and inform the violator of the penalty for non-compliance and allow three days for him to remove his signs. This action will solve most of the problem of illegal advertising signs and deter others from placing their signs. I will be unable to attend the "Chat with the Chief" so sincerely appreciate your reply regarding this issue. Thank you very much for your support. Joe Chudzik (703) 339-1686 forservice@verizon.net

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : as of July 1, 2013, signs are removed by the Sheriff's Community Labor Force.  The enforcement and removal is accomplished by the Sheriff's Office.  see fairfaxcounty.gov/signs/signremovalprogram.htm


Lois Beck : A recent article in a weekly Fairfax County newspaper stated that the number of our Neighborhood Watch (NW) groups has been declining for various reasons. Requisite training for NW volunteers with a police office is a "turn-off" because residents see it as a meeting they have to go (drive to) as an extension of their already-long commuting time or, for older residents who don't want to get out after dark into commuter traffic. Is thought being given to providing training by internet or, perhaps by periodic conference telephone sessions? Perhaps a "rap session" on a Saturday morning with current NW resident coordinators would be helpful to generate ideas to increase volunteer numbers.

Edwin Roessler, Jr. :  Our crime prevention officers work closely with hundreds of NW coordinators in our county. We attribute the high level of safety here in Fairfax County to our residents who are willing to get involved; to help police; and to be on the lookout for criminal or suspicious activity at all times. Our goal with in-person NW training is to help build and establish close relationships/ties to residents in our neighborhoods. This is difficult to do with any type of “online” training. We are, however, aware that we’re facing NW recruitment challenges and are actively working on new ways to enhance our program. Stay tuned.


Robert Lee, Mason Neck : Chief, congrats on your new job (belatedly). Best of luck! I receive valuable traffic and weather messages from Fairfax County CEAN, yet none ever really convey a description of a wanted person or information about patterns of criminal behavior that might be relevant to my neighborhood or the places to which I travel. Could you envision an expansion of the service to include such information?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Thank you for your congratulations. Our agency does utilize the police portion of CEAN and we certainly believe that geographically-targeted emergency alerts are helpful to our residents. We are developing enhancements to it’s effectiveness by adding timely information that will be helpful.


Stephen : How are we suppose to keep our family Members out of drunk drivers cars if we do not have a list of them to check up on?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : We do post an “arrest list” every week on the Fairfax County Police Department website that lists all persons charged with DWI as well as all other charges. Typically, there are hundreds of people on this list. However, if you observe a drunk driver please call us with detailed information, such as the tag number, vehicle and occupant description and direction of travel so we can effect an arrest or prevent the driver from hurting others.  Please educate all around you to do the same.  Also, all of us can do our best to ensure persons don't drive drunk via education.


Anonymous User : Frequently I see stories on Facebook about federal, state, and local law enforcement executing a search warrant for minor drug possession or other seemingly minor matter by raiding a home in early morning hours, essentially using "no-knock" methods with flash-bang explosives and terrorizing innocent men, women, and children, sometimes resulting in deaths of inhabitants of the home, with minor if any charges resulting from the search. I see other stories about police forces acquiring military-style vehicles and weapons with little if any justification for such firepower. Perhaps we need a citizen oversight panel with inspector general authority to review excessive use of force in Fairfax County to ensure police powers are not being abused. What are your views?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : As your Chief of Police I must ensure you we are accountable to our community.  The County Executive has a process in place where the County Audit Office provides a review of use of force issues to include investigations.  Every use of force, from non-lethal to lethal is reviewed.  All police involved shootings are criminally investigated under the direct review of the Commonwealth's Attorney who is an elected official. Additionally, after the conclusion of the criminal investigation, the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau conducts an administrative investigation.  Your Police Department continually updates training to reflect best practices to prevent misapplication of use of force. 

All of our equipment use such as hostage rescue vehicles and/or special weapons are subjected to strict policy use and several levels of supervisors and commanders must approve deployments and decision making. 

Lastly, ethics, integrity, and truthfulness are paramount to your trust in your Police Department.  Violations of such by employees shall result in termination of employment.  I take seriously the abuse of the authority given to us by the community.  I will uphold that trust and ensure abuse by officers does not happen.  Together we are partners in making this County the best.


Bob Kohm : Hi Chief Roessler.. we have a serious safety issue in the Franconia Police District with cars cutting at high speed through a 7-11 parking lot and the Shops on telegraph parking lot in order to avoid the light at South Kings Hwy & Telegraph Road. NU\umerous complaints to police have received little to no attention. Can you help before a kid gets killed in one of those lots, which have a 7-11, a Little Gym, a pizzeria and a very kid-centric coffee shop?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Hi - can you please contact the Franconia District Station 703-922-0889 immediately to provide this information to an officer so we can start an investigation.


Motorcyclist/Bicyclist : Sir, With the recent changes in laws making texting while driving a primary offense I was wondering if there is currently a concerted effort by your officers to step-up enforcement. As a commuting motorcyclist I'm stunned by the dangerous environment I have to travel in.

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : YES.  Texting and other distractive driving behaviors are deadly, especially to pedestrians, motorcycles, and bikes.  I have tasked each station commander to aggressively enforce the new law.  We need to educate, prevent, and enforce this.  Each high school has a robust education program for teens and parents.  As a County resident I have taken 2 of my kids to their high school drive education sessions where the issue is graphically discussed (deadly results of others).  I run a lot and bike.  I too as a pedestrian care about this as I have been hit by a car a few times and injured once.  We will continue efforts here.  So far we have over one hundred stand alone charges for testing while driving.


Diane Eckert : The Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County works to prevent or reduce alcohol and other drug use among youth and young adults. We are working with your officers on several drug awareness and community wide projects. Currently, there is a nationally reported increase in heroin use due to using oxycontin prescriptions and then needing to switch to heroin for easier accessibility and lower cost. Parents are asking us about this increase. Are you seeing this trend in Fairfax County and are youth and young adults using either drug?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Drug use by community members is a challenge.  Most often we learn about it after rescue is called for an overdose.  We work with the Schools UPC and many others as you point out.  We need community support, support of parents and others to educate and prevent drug use.  UPC is a great example.  We need our community to get involved and report suspected criminal drug use (sales, prescription abuse) so we can get others help and when needed make arrests. 


Bob Battani : Two Part Question: School Safety is still on all parents minds, and we are concerned that one day something terrible might happen at one of our schools. What measures are being discussed and/or considered to make the schools safer going forward? And what do you consider the most important thing a parent can do to help law enforcement with this issue?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : The County School system has a very proactive safety and security division that is partnered with the Police Department.  Additionally, we have trained private school leaders to ensure all schools have the same state-of-the-art emergency plans.  All middle schools ad high schools have a school resource officer assigned to them and patrol officers actively patrol all schools with school security officers.

As a parent of 3 children who are or have navigated through the County schools, my advice is get involved with your school.  Challenge your school administrators to ensure the police-school-community safety dialogue is robust, active, and progressive.  Your voice will be heard and together we will protect our children.


Dark Cloud : How will the upcoming Police/Fire games impact the county. What may we do to assist with the event?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : The Games will allow the community and public safety agencies to work together to allow visitors from around the world enjoy Fairfax County.  The most recent games in Belfast were friendly and fun for all.  That is a goal for us.  Yes; we need volunteers: log on to http://fairfax2015.com/fairfax-volunteers and let us know how you can help us.


Falls Church Resident : What do you see as the issue of greatest concern for FFX county residents? And what is the greatest concern for the Department? Thanks!

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : The Police Department vision is to provide ethical leadership with an engaged community to prevent and fight crime, increase the culture of safety for all, and keep pace with urbanization.

If we look at urbanization, that encompasses the first two elements of crime prevention/fighting and safety.  Therefore, as we urbanize (metro lines, more high rise buildings, and urban centers); we will change our style of policing to achieve the goals of the vision.  We also need to change the demographics of your Police Department to mirror that of a changing County demographic.  Therefore, we need the partnership with the community to increase so we can increase the diversity of the Department to be effective in the community.


Jim : Traffic accidents. Police officers wrongly fail to make reports because they grossly underestimate the costs to fix a vehicle. If police officers respond to an accident, they should fill out a report in my opinion. Especially since the costs are so high. A small chip on a fender or bumper could cost several thousand on a luxury car. A wheel alone if scarred might cost $1500 to $2000.

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Good points.  I will have my staff provide updated training on how to estimate damages.  I hope this helps.


Anonymous User : What will FCPD do to combat increased crime at the Metro terminus at Weihle in Reston, and how will FCPD address growing crime at Tysons Corner Metro stations as well?

Edwin Roessler, Jr. : As of July 1, 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved 9 new police positions which is the foundation of the new Tyson's Corner Urban Center Police Station.  This team is developing the template for our new urban policing methods which will be used throughout the county as it continues to urbanize for decades.  We are partners with Metro Transit PD and conducting training department-wide to ensure metro rails are policed in a more aggressive manner not only at Weihle/Tyson's but at all other locations.  This is the future of your Police Department. We are changing as the county does to ensure we continue to decrease crime and maintain and increase our reputation as the safest place to live, work, play, and grow old. 


Edwin Roessler, Jr. : Thank you all for the questions.  I am sorry I cannot answer all but in each answer I tried to address other concerns which may be of help to you.  I will have staff review all questions to ensure we adjust our efforts to increase our services to the community.  Again, I value each of your questions and we aim to serve you.

Chief Roessler

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