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<b>Griffin Named Emergency Management Director</b>

Last Tuesday, County Manager Ron Carlee announced that he Robert P. Griffin Jr. would become director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, effective June 28.

Griffin, 38, has served as assistant county administrator and chief of fire and rescue in Loudoun County since 1997. He also coordinated that county’s emergency management function. Previously, he was executive administrator of the Town of Tyngsborough, Mass. and town administrator of Townsend, Mass. He is a certified fire fighter and basic emergency medical technician.

Following Griffin’s arrival, the county’s Office of Emergency Management will become a separate agency on July 1, the start of the 2005 fiscal year. The office was created to focus on the County’s strategic priorities, specifically, planning and coordination of emergency services. The position currently is held by Acting Director James Schwartz, who returns to his position as an assistant chief in Arlington Fire Department.

Griffin holds a masters degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the same institution. He currently is pursuing a doctorate in public administration and public affairs from Virginia Tech. Griffin and his wife, Jennifer, are in the process of relocating to Arlington. They have two sons, Peter, 9, and Bobby, 7.

<b>Police Credit Arrests to Bait Cars</b>

Arlington police said last week that the department’s bait car program, using cars with hidden surveillance equipment as bait for thieves, had resulted in the arrest of seven men since Feb. 19.

Thieves broke into bait cars five times, and four adults and three juveniles have been arrested and charged with bait car-related crimes. Police said they believe that two of the suspects are tied to a rash of Honda Accord thefts in and around Arlington.

This recent activity brings the total number of bait car activations to 27, the number of arrests to 26, and the number of charges filed to 49. All 15 bait car suspects who have gone to court have pleaded guilty.

Since Thursday, Feb. 19, police responding to bait car thefts have arrested Newin Noel Gracias Guevara, 32, of Arlington; 18-year-old Gilbert R. Pavon and 18-year-old Johnny Gallo of Arlington, along with a 16-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy; another 16-year-old boy; and Wilmer Arevallo, 22, of no fixed address. Detectives in the county’s Auto Crimes Unit said they have linked Pavon and Gallo to the theft of at least six other vehicles in and around Arlington.

Arlington's bait car program, launched in February 2002, is the latest high-tech weapon in the Auto Crimes Unit's fight against car thefts and thefts from autos. Bait cars, which are camouflaged to look like regular vehicles, send a signal to dispatchers when they are entered or when the ignition is started. Dispatchers can then track the vehicle via GPS technology and remotely control several of the vehicles functions, including the engine. This remote control significantly reduces the possibility of a stolen bait car being involved in a high-speed pursuit and decreases the risk to officers when apprehending a suspect in a bait car.

In 2003, Arlington County experienced the third straight year of declining auto thefts, and posted the lowest number of auto thefts (662) since 1985.

Bait car programs of varying sophistication are in use across the U.S., but Arlington was the second jurisdiction in the nation (after the test site of Minneapolis) to use the advanced technology offered by HGI Wireless. Other Washington metropolitan area jurisdictions are developing similar programs, and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office has had HGI Wireless-equipped bait cars on the streets since last summer.