Members of the Mount Vernon Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) had questions and Fairfax County Chief of Police Colonel David Rohrer had answers. He met with the group at their September meeting after Detective Kelly Gregory, criminal investigations bureau, gave a presentation about identity theft, internet safety, construction fraud, credit card fraud and counterfeit bills.
Rohrer introduced himself and talked a little about his background.
“This is the best district and I’m honored to be here,” Rohrer said. “We have a 64-year history [of chiefs being promoted from within the agency] and I plan to continue those traditions.”
Rohrer went on to say that his goal was to be inclusive, and that he wanted input from advisory groups.
“The focus of the CAC is to guide us and give us perspective,” Rohrer said. “Your support really does make us better and stronger. I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Questions from the audience ran the gamut — from questions about assault weapons to giving tickets to jaywalkers to teen driving restrictions.
When asked about the assault weapon ban, Rohrer said that he was sorry that the ban had expired, and thought that they [the legislature] were working on a bill. Regarding whether or not his department had the responsibility of apprehending illegal aliens, he said, “Our role is not to seek out and arrest aliens.”
Rohrer went on to say, however, that new legislation does give police officers greater authority when it comes to detaining illegal aliens.
“It does allow us, if we have reasonable suspicion of somebody having a prior felony, to take action. It does not give us open season to arrest everyone. We have to work with the community where many victims don’t call us because of the trust issue,” Rohrer said, adding that unfortunately, these new laws have created a barrier to that trust, and have caused officers to lose access to some neighborhoods.
NADINE WREN ASKED about the ambiguity with the under-age driver laws. While section of Virginia code §46.2—334.01 states that “Until the holder is 18 years old, a provisional drivers’ license shall not authorize its holder to operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger who is less than 18-years old for the first year after the license is issued nor more than three passengers who are less than 18-years old thereafter until the holder’s 18th birthday ....”
The ambiguity comes in because it also states that, “The holder of a provisional driver’s license shall not operate a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. except when driving (i) to or from a place of business where he is employed; (ii) to or from a school-sponsored activity; (iii) accompanied by a parent, a person, acting in loco parentis, or by a spouse who is 18 years or older ....”
Wren felt that it wasn’t always clear when they could have more than one passenger and when they could drive after curfew. Rohrer agreed and said that his officers do their best to apply the law fairly.
Another member asked why officers weren’t giving more tickets to jaywalkers; Rohrer said that they have had a number of campaigns over the last 12 months and would be stepping up efforts to educate once again during Pedestrian Awareness Month. When asked why something couldn’t be done about making public transportation safer, specifically moving bus stops next to crosswalks, Rohrer said that they have asked VDOT for closer crosswalks.
Capt. Larry Moser, commander, Mount Vernon District Station, said, “It’s long overdue; it comes down to funding, but it [crosswalks and other safety measures] is part of the comprehensive plan.”
Someone acknowledged the efforts of two officers who took it upon themselves to help direct traffic near the Huntington Metro station during rush hour, and Rohrer said, “These patrol officers set a great example.”
There was a question about how to tell if somebody is involved in suspicious activity — for example, terrorism. Rohrer said that there were all kinds of indicators and encouraged people to call if they had any suspicions. He also said that they are doing cross-training with county and district agencies; health department and the fire department.
WHEN ASKED about gang status, Rohrer said that the amount of gang activity in the county is still troubling, but that there are a lot of efforts underway to combat it. Currently, the county gang unit has eight detectives, two supervisors and one analyst. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) has also created a regional task force.
“With enforcement, we do very well. We really need to try to prevent kids from joining, with after-school activities or other means,” Rohrer said.
Chairman Judy Schultheis allowed one final question from a man who asked about officers removing political signs. Rohrer said that thanks to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland, a lot of the signs on Route One have been taken down. He would, however, look into the matter.
The Mount Vernon CAC is 30 members strong and has been in existence for several years. The board is comprised of chairman Judy Schultheis, vice chairman Ginger Krup; Treasurer Marianne Baltimore; Secretary Mary Alvarado; and chairman emeritus Bob Lowery. Meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Vernon District Station, located at 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria. The next meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 12th. Meetings are open to the public.