Basically, the Sully District is a safe place to live, and the men and women of the Sully District Police Station are doing everything they can to keep it that way. That was the overall message presented by Capt. Bob Blakley, the station commander, and others during the annual State of the Station report to the community.
It was given during the Feb. 10 meeting of the station’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), and residents received a slew of information about local traffic, crimes and community outreach over the past year. And, said Blakley, “We’re always changing our resources and strategies to fit the needs of the community, on a regular basis.”
PFC Tara Gerhard, lead crime-prevention officer, gave an overview of the 2015 crime-prevention initiatives, including Lock it or Lose It, during which officers on the midnight shift checked vehicles to see if they were locked. There was also a safety seminar for senior citizens, plus DUI-education events at Centreville High — a mock, DUI crash before prom — and the Mott Center.
Police also spoke to residents about pedestrian safety and provided Neighborhood Watch training. At monthly CAC meetings, they informed the community about the functions of the various sections of the Police Department and gave information about any current, local concerns.
They discussed how to keep places of worship safe and spoke about distracted-driving awareness. They showed residents how police use radar to catch speeders and gave home-security assessments.
Other community-outreach events included: Scout safety talks, Touch-A-Truck, a kindergarten-class tour of the station, car-seat installations, car-fit instruction for senior citizens, visits to day cares and preschools, holiday food drive, bike rodeo, Don’t Text and Drive and National Night Out.
2nd Lt. Patrick Bruce runs the Neighborhood Patrol Unit, comprised of the traffic team in the daytime and the bike team in the evenings doing criminal patrols. “There are eight people in the unit and we’re pro-active,” he said. “And we’re particularly focused on traffic safety.”
“We’ve done directed patrols on holidays associated with drinking, plus driver education to let people know why we write tickets and the hazards of speeding, plus drinking while driving,” said Bruce. “We also deal with child safety seats and pedestrian safety.”
His team also arrested people breaking into cars and, in March, responded to an attempted shooting in London Towne. “We apprehended the suspect, who was later convicted,” he said.
Bruce also noted the unit’s anti-speeding campaign. “We did traffic calming via message boards and put speed strips in the road to collect data,” he said. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality of safety.”
“We attempt passive enforcement first,” added Blakley. “We park empty cruisers and then do data collection before issuing tickets.”
OVERALL CRIME DECREASE
The Sully District is 77 square miles, with a minimum of eight officers working per shift. “We had 84,000 dispatched calls in 2015, equaling about 200 calls/day,” said Blakley. “So our officers are staying busy and engaged. We’re up from 79,000 calls last year.”
Sully also had 1,315 reportable crashes where the damage exceeded $1,500 and involved injuries or fatalities. Only the West Springfield Station had more. “We’re slightly up from last year, but we have major transportation arteries here in Routes 50, 28 and 29,” said Blakley. “And we’ll continue to reduce this number through enforcement and traffic-safety education.”
He said Sully had no motor-vehicle fatalities in 2015, “But unfortunately, two pedestrian fatalities in the early part of the year. One was at Stone and Braddock Roads at dusk in a crosswalk, with the victim wearing dark colors. The other was on Route 29 near Stone in the evening; the victim was in dark clothing and was not in a crosswalk.”
He said there were nine reported crashes due to drug use; however, alcohol-related crashes here are trending down 14.6 percent. “Every week in Sully, there’s a DUI checkpoint or DUI directed patrol,” said Blakley. “To me, [driving under the influence] is a bullet fired down the road at you and me and our families, and we don’t want to have that.”
Criminal arrests are down slightly. In 2014, there were 3,809 arrests in Sully; in 2015, the total was 3,263 — the lowest in the Department. “Reston and Fair Oaks were similar to us,” said Blakley. “The Mount Vernon, McLean, Mason and Franconia stations had the highest amounts.”
Major offenses such as trespassing, assault, embezzlement, rape and homicide are also down 14 percent in Sully from last year. “We’re 400 percent up in arsons,” said Blakley. “But that’s only because we went from two to 10 because of [last summer’s vehicle fires] in Little Rocky Run — and we caught the teens [responsible].”
He said property destruction and vandalism decreased, as did burglaries, by 36 percent. Abduction was up 66 percent because Sully went from three to five cases, mainly parental- and domestic-related. “Robberies are down 24 percent,” said Blakley. “We only had 22 robberies because of a crackdown on gangs.” Meanwhile, forcible sex offenses increased 118 percent, going from 11 in 2014 to 23 in 2015. But 18 of them were acquaintance cases, not involving strangers.
Motor-vehicle thefts rose 11 percent, from 62 to 69 vehicles stolen. “Thefts of vehicles and from vehicles are a big problem throughout the county,” Blakley told the audience. “So don’t leave your keys in your car or your car unlocked. We’re down in thefts from vehicles, but we still had 1,024 — and that’s a lot.”
He said his officers don’t have a ticket-writing quota, but wrote 11,500 tickets last year, including 2,200 written by the motorcycle officers. Most occurred at two, main intersections — 1,137 at Routes 28/29 and 999 at Route 28/Westfields Boulevard.
Speaking next was Lt. Todd Kinkead, supervisor of the Criminal Investigations Section. “We just have four detectives, so we manage them as effectively as we can,” he said. “A tremendous amount of effort and time goes into our cases. And we have a nearly 50-percent closure rate by arrest, which is phenomenal.”
In Sully, said Kinkead, “The vast majority of crimes are carried out by a small number of offenders, some of them gangs, and many of them juveniles.” However, he added, many times burglars gain entrance to a home because people leave their garage doors open. Or thieves are able to get a person’s garage-door opener from the visor of a car left unlocked.
“So if you see your neighbor’s garage open, tell them,” he told the crowd. “We deal with a wide range of crimes, including larcenies from vehicles, burglaries and robberies. But we couldn’t do the cases without you calling us when things don’t look right and then testifying in court.”
Blakley then discussed the strategic vision he and Assistant Station Commander Matt Owens have for 2016. He said they are:
- “To protect the community as guardians by embracing community-policing strategies reducing the incidences of crime;
- To serve the community through positive interactions, treating everyone with dignity and respect, to build and maintain trust and legitimacy in the community; and
- To prepare by training often and maintaining a culture of safety that emphasizes the sanctity of human life in all that we do.”
Owens said some of the initiatives to carry out this vision include events such as National Night Out, Touch-a-Truck and the bike rodeo. Police also plan Trash Talks — putting stickers on trash cans to remind people not to speed. “We’ll also use variable message boards and take a broader approach to educating the community about traffic safety and speeding,” said Owens.
Also on the horizon is an Exchange Zone — a parking spot at the station where people may safely purchase items they bought online. And movie nights would be a way to reach out to local children.
“These initiatives are all partnerships to develop,” added Blakley. “They’re also more ways in which we can engage and interact with the community.”