Thursday, November 19, 2009

Police Catch Armed Robber Red-Handed in Arlandria - Confesses to 4 Robberies

The Alexandria Police Department is reporting that two young men have been charged with 4 different robberies from person in Arlandria in the last 3 weeks (see end of post for report). At least two of them were armed robberies.

This report from shows the 4 robberies
One thing not included in the article is that the initial arrest was made when one of the suspects was called in for attempting to break into a car on Dale St. The police showed up after the suspect broke into one car and removed several items, and then attempted to break into a second car. It turns out, he was wanted for armed robbery for one of the four robberies listed. Through skilled interrogation, the Alexandria Police got the suspect to admit to the other three robberies and give up his accomplice in the robberies.

The Grand Larceny charge for those thefts is minor in comparison to the armed robberies, so it is understandably absent from the charges. The point here is, always call the police. At monthly citizens association meetings, Hume Springs and Lynhaven Community Support Officer Nick Ruggiero often tells everyone, "The residents are our eyes and ears for the community." He encourages us to call in even for seemingly minor problems because the police are experienced in handling various situations and determining what might be an issue.

Call the Alexandria Police Non-Emergency line @ 703-838-4444 if you witness even minor incidents
Perhaps you see someone you don't recognize hanging out on a park bench while kids play nearby. If it makes you feel uneasy, call the non-emergency line (703-838-4444) and let the police determine if there might be a threat. You'll feel a lot less guilty that you were wrongly suspicious of someone than you would if something actually happens. Not to mention, the police often catch wanted criminals when they are stopped for unrelated minor offenses.

With a quick 3-minute phone-call, the police show up and observe the scene. You might allow the police to catch someone that has been robbing area residents at knife-point. That person might turn in an accomplice to save their own tail, and now 2 violent criminals are behind bars. Or, the Police might determine nothing is amiss--but it only took you 3 minutes to call. Our community will only shake off its old reputation of crime infestation if we continue to get the criminals off the streets.

Here is the the Alexandria Police Department press release:

Alexandria Police Make Arrest in Series of Robberies

Alexandria Police Detectives have charged two men with multiple counts of Robbery after a thorough investigation into several robberies that occurred over the last month.

The first robbery occurred on October 27, at 7:20 p.m., in the area of West Glebe Road. The suspect approached the victim, implied he had a weapon and demanded her jacket. The suspect was not able to wrestle the jacket from the victim and ran off.

The second robbery occurred on November 2, at 5:15 a.m., in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. The suspect approached the victim from behind, grabbed her purse, removed her cell phone and fled the area on foot.

In the third robbery, two suspects approached the victim on November 6, at 9:50 p.m., in the 3800 block of Executive Avenue. The first suspect grabbed the victim around the neck, displayed a knife and demanded money. The victim relinquished an undisclosed amount of money and a cell phone.

The fourth robbery occurred at the intersection of Leadbetter Street and Commonwealth Avenue at 8:10 p.m on November 10. The suspect approached the victim and grabbed her purse. After a struggle, he was able to get the purse away from the victim and fled the area. In all the cases, the victims were not injured.

Following an intensive investigation, detectives charged Juan M. Benitez, 18, of the 3900 block of Bruce Street, with four counts of robbery and Gustavo Adolfo Ruiz Hernandez, 21, of the 600 block of Notabene Street, with one count of robbery. Both Benitez and Ruiz Hernandez are being held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center without bond.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tram-sportation For Alexandria

Update: Time of event is 7pm, not 6:30. There were two different times listed in various places. I double-checked this with NVSC.

Streetcars, aka trams, are a hot topic in the news recently. They helped form the communities that we now think of as some of the most livable, walkable areas in the Washington, DC area. Some 70 years ago, they fell out of fashion through very questionable actions by the automobile, electrical, and oil industries. It seems they are coming back to the area, so why not here?

The Columbia Pike streetcar project is moving along. Alexandria, Arlington, and parts of Fairfax county make perfect sense as future phases of an eventual Northern Virginia streetcar network.

The newly formed Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition (NVSC) wants to build momentum for this resurgent form of transit that can get you from Metro or VRE to your doorstep (facebook group).

NVSC is holding a kickoff meeting this Wednesday, Nov 18 @ 7pm in Room 158 of Northern Virginia Community College's Bisdorf Building (map). Speakers will include Chris Zimmerman from the Arlington County Board and Stewart Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

To whet your appetite and catch you up a bit, here is a roundup of recent news and information about streetcars. You can also find lots of links on NVSC's facebook group page, linked above.
Done right, streetcars induce mixed-use “transit-oriented development” that accommodates growth while enhancing livability and reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Streetcars can promote street life, define neighborhoods, reinforce retail, and fit easily into built environments with little disruption to existing businesses, residents and traffic. They help create places where people want to be.
Simulated Photo from

So if you'd like to get involved with this group, just show up November 18th. You can RSVP to, though nothing says an RSVP is required.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Arlandria & the City's Strategic Planning Process

The strategic planning process is an effort by City Council to move the City forward in realizing the goals of our community. It also offers another venue for stakeholders in the North End neighborhoods in the Arlandria area to voice their opinion about the priorities that are important to them.

Goal #1 of the City's strategic plan states: "There is Quality Development and Redevelopment, Support for Local Businesses, and a Strong, Diverse, and Growing Local Economy.

But as Nick's earlier post suggested, this goal for Alexandria may not be a priority for Council when it comes to Arlandria.

City Council Members Paul Smedberg & Kerry Donley have been lead a series of meetings on this topic and have been soliciting input from citizens.

Video from the October 22 meeting, for instance, is here along with tweets summarizing the comments made here.

The next meeting in the series is Wednesday, November 4th at 7 p.m. in Room 2000 at City Hall.

Please offer your comments about Arlandria's place in Alexandria's strategic goals.

Donley, Hughes, Euille Declare 300 Hours Is Too Much Staff Time For Arlandria

Active copy of the Implementation Schedule – Last Update 2006?!

On Oct 13th, City Council discussed (and deferred action on) the creation of an Arlandria Action Plan Advisory Group (AAPAG).

As proposed, the AAPAG would be charged with, among other things, helping decide how to spend the $500K of Capital Improvement Planning funds that are allocated for Arlandria Streetscape revitalization (more on $500K in CIP here). It would also keep the City on task with actually implementing the vision of the 2003 Arlandria Plan. The AAPAG would be comprised of representatives from Arlandria and the North End neighborhoods: businesses, service organizations, civic associations, etc. The City's Department of Planning and Zoning (P&Z) estimates the need for about 300 hours of their staff time to help facilitate the meetings. Here is the full resolution as it appeared on the docket: (small PDF).

We had already provided Deputy Director of P&Z Karl Moritz with feedback about the draft AAPAG resolution. The only important suggestion we made was to clarify the charge of the new group. We suggested that the group should focus on "removing disincentives to economic development," but that did not make it into the copy that went forward to Council. Because of this, we requested that the vote on the resolution be deferred. This 6-minute video (below) shows discussion of deferral. But in addition, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley questions the purpose of the group and he, Councilwoman Alicia Hughes, and Mayor Bill Euille doubt whether we should spend 300 hours of staff time on Arlandria. (Video is also available here.)

Vice Mayor Donley is worried that Arlandria area stakeholders might ask for money if given an official voice. But, as Councilman Krupicka rightly stated, the entire reason the group is being formed is to jump-start the long stalled plan, and, in the current fiscal climate, to figure out how to do more with less.

Community organizing, volunteerism, and policy changes could go a long way towards making the community better for current residents and businesses and more appealing for redevelopment. There is energy in the community towards improving things, even if it means chasing down donations from garden centers, mentoring an area youth, or just fighting to clear a perceived zoning hurdle. These actions all make a difference and are virtually free to the City, and are things neighbors have demonstrated the willingness and ability to do.

Then there's the little issue of spending the $500K in CIP in a way that maximizes its impact. And quite frankly, who cares if we do request funding for a project that Council may not have known about? Isn't it the job of Council to determine priorities? If we get out the pitchforks and march down to City Hall, they can still say, "No, these other projects are more important." They should not preclude us from asking and fighting for every scrap we can get.

The North End neighborhoods in the Arlandria area have been largely ignored by the City for years, and now the mere idea of spending 300 hours of staff time causes Vice Mayor Donley, Councilwoman Hughes, and Mayor Euille to balk about needing the staff resources elsewhere. Assuming that P&Z employs roughly 45 people (at about 2,000 hours per person per year), that means 300 hours equates to 0.33% of available P&Z staff time. Implementation of the Arlandria Plan was listed as one of the top priorities for P&Z staff time this fiscal year by last City Council (#5 on the list). Do some new members of Council want to retroactively change any other established decisions? Or have they just not retained information about the City's forgotten neighborhoods on the North End? When Donley and Hughes talk of other priorities, they seemingly haven't read the list of P&Z priorities for this year.

I've asked people to e-mail the Mayor and City Council before about issues that affect neighborhoods near us. This time, though, an e-mail to the Mayor and City Council will affect our ability to have a say. P&Z isn't suggesting 300 hours towards this project because they have so much time to throw around. Those 300 hours are needed to let staff help the AAPAG understand the costs of various projects, administer the group, and research and answer questions about City ordinances, policies and available incentives. City Council must enthusiastically retain the commitment to 300 hours of staff time for AAPAG... if for no other reason than just to show they understand Alexandria is bigger than Old Town and Del Ray. There is a tremendous opportunity to revitalize a community. Please ask for the support of the whole Council.