It happened in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday — a double shooting on Mount Vernon Avenue. The crime shocked the Del Ray community, and neighbors were buzzing as two Alexandria teenagers struggled for life at the Washington Hospital Center. Within 48 hours, the Alexandria Police Department arrested two teenagers from the Alexandria part of Fairfax County.
Nine hours after the Del Ray shootings, a 19-year-old Alexandria man was shot while waiting for a traffic light to change at the intersection of North Washington Street and Pendleton Street. He drove himself to the hospital, and police are still looking for the shooter.
These two weekend shootings are evidence of an old maxim that police officers know well: summertime creates an environment where violent crime flourishes.
“We always see a spike in crime during the summer months,” said Capt. John Crawford, commander of the public information office for the Alexandria Police Department. “We’ve been fortunate because the spike has not really been evident until this weekend.”
But even before this weekend’s shootings, violent crime has been increasing as the temperatures have climbed toward record-breaking heat. As early as June, the city began experiencing a rash of violent crimes.
Many of the crimes happened in broad daylight:
* A 35-year-old Alexandria man was robbed at 7 p.m. on June 1 at the intersection of King Street and Washington Street. The victim had just left the bank when two men approached him, one carrying a gun and they other carrying a knife. He slashed in the hand before making an escape.
* A 51-year-old Fairfax County woman walking in the 6100 block of Lincolnia Road at 11:30 a.m. on June 7 when a homeless woman put a knife to her throat. The victim was slashed before police arrived on the scene to arrest the homeless woman.
* A 10-year-old Alexandria boy was riding his bicycle in the 2700 block of Commonwealth Avenue at 5 p.m. on June 10 when a 13-year-old boy who punched him in the face and stole his Mongoose BMX bicycle.
* A 3-year-old Alexandria girl was sexually assaulted at 3 p.m. on June 15 at All Nations Church on Fillmore Avenue. The suspect, a 49-year-old Alexandria man, was later arrested by police and identified as Bryan Goodwin — a registered sex offender with the commonwealth of Virginia.
* A 30-year-old Fairfax County man was stabbed at 5:30 p.m. on June 29 in the 1100 block of Queen Street as he was trying to break up a fight involving three male juveniles.
* A 45-year-old Alexandria woman was standing at the intersection of Anderson Street and Lowell Street at 11 a.m. on June 30 when three men who knocked her to the ground and attempted to steal her jewelry. The victim managed to run away, and the suspects fled from the area on foot.
* Schurman Fine Papers and Papyrus at 721 King St. was robbed at gunpoint at 6 p.m. on July 12. The suspect entered the building with a gun and demanded money from the store’s clerk, a 21-year-old Arlington man. The clerk complied and the man fled the store on foot.
* A 48-year-old man was riding his bicycle when he was attacked by a group of juveniles at 6 p.m. on July 22 at the intersection of Madison Street and North Alfred Street. One of the suspects punched him as the others stole his bicycle.
ARLANDRIA CONTINUES to be the neighborhood where most of the city’s violent crimes are located. The neighborhood has had crime problems for years, and the city is in the midst of trying to change the neighborhood. In January, Capt. Eddie Reyes was named “Arlandria Area Commander” and put in charge of coordinating city services and crime prevention.
“I know that Arlandria looks like it’s out of control, but it’s not,” Capt. Reyes said. “One of the major problems we have in this neighborhood is alcohol abuse.”
Reyes said that a coordinated effort by plain-clothes officers has brought nuisance crime to a new low, and a recently appointed residential officer, Eric Lemke, has moved into the neighborhood to provide extra security. He said that many immigrants who live in Arlandria distrust the banking system and carry cash — one of the reasons that robberies are so prevalent in the neighborhood. In addition to this, the summer heat creates the condition for increased crime.
“As it gets hotter, more people stay out late and night,” Reyes said. “That leads to drinking, and that leads to crime.”
Denis Donahue, pastor at St. Rita Catholic Church, said that much of the problem is caused by family separation. Donahue’s church is one block from the intersection of West Glebe Road and Executive Avenue, which has the highest concentration of crime in the city. Father Donahue said that many of the Arlandria men have left families behind in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — creating broken bonds with family members that creates an environment for crime.
“People here are hard workers, but separation from their families often causes problems,” Donahue said. “They end up drinking, and that leads to problems.”
A few months ago, Donahue said, he was robbed at knifepoint in front of the church. The experience left him shocked, but he hasn’t given up on the neighborhood. Instead, he says, he tries to help his neighbors find a way out.
“A lot of people live here for a while then end up buying a house in Woodbridge,” he said. “I try to encourage these men to reunite with their families.”