Letter: We Don’t Own The Problem’

Letter: We Don’t Own The Problem’

To the Editor:

The title says it all; that’s the response nearly 30 Alexandria residents living on a street adjacent to the playing fields at Patrick Henry Elementary School received when they contacted ACPS School Security to complain about the illegal use of said playing fields.

You probably don’t know this about the fields, I didn’t until I began to look into these residents’ complaints but, those playing fields are strictly for the use of PHES students and faculty as well as various youth athletic programs that have obtained permits to utilize the surface. For all intents and purposes, no adult is ever to use the playing fields in an organized manner; for example … soccer games.

When the temperature and weather is suitable to being outside for extended periods of time, head over to the athletic fields at Patrick Henry and witness a criminal act committed “en masse.” You’ll see a group of men and women, from 20 large to nearly 100 large engaging in organized soccer matches until the moon’s light just isn’t enough to see the ball.

The question could — nay, would — be asked: Who cares? Why get in the way of people who are exercising and having fun?

Every question deserves an answer.

Only one side of this street allows parking and, it’s not the field side, it’s the side occupied by homes of Alexandrians who have lived in the area on average 30 or more years. When these games (every weekday night and all day on the weekends) are in progress, every street parking space is taken by individuals who shouldn’t even be there. Driveways are periodically blocked and the players are often loitering on the sidewalks in front of homeowners smoking cigarettes.

I have personally seen cars stop in the middle of an already tight street for up to 15 minutes while drivers chat with players or spectators.

Now these criminal acts alone probably don’t warrant a Letter to the Editor but, the response from the Alexandria Police Department and more importantly ACPS School Security (who has jurisdiction) does.

ACPS School Security says simply, “We don’t own the problem.” As in, we didn’t cause this so we’re not going to try and fix it. Up until about a month ago, ACPS School Security would recognize the complaint and proceed to vacate the field as soon as possible, but not now, because they don’t “own the problem” … anymore.

Alexandria Police have stopped showing up, primarily because they do in fact have more important things to do. Their assessment is, if ACPS isn’t doing anything about, they’d rather be out catching killers and such, and I don’t blame them.

A few homes on this particular street are now for sale; I’ve spoken with those homeowners and asked if they believe the incessant shouting, drinking, smoking, etc. is negatively affecting their Sunday open houses. Shockingly, they say yes. I know I sure wouldn’t want to spend a minimum of $500,000 on a home in the line of fire of such lawlessness and vagrancy.

Attempts to obtain a quote, comment, or explanation from ACPS Security during normal working hours and after hours was met with silence. When I contacted Kelly Alexander, the director of communications and public relations as well as Dr. Madye Henson, deputy superintendent and director of student support and institutional advancement, neither had any clue of the problem or knew anything about the rules as they pertain to ACPS School Grounds, which is almost equally as shocking.

So, if this problem isn’t “owned” by ACPS, who owns it?

Scott Gordon

Del Ray, Alexandria