Crime is down in Mason District for the second year in a row, according to Capt. Gun Lee, commander of the Mason District station.
Lee gave his annual State of the District report to residents in attendance at Tuesday’s Citizen Advisory Committee meeting at the Mason District Governmental Center. Lee said crime decreased by 8 percent in 2012 compared to 2011.
“I’d attribute the decrease to a lot of luck, community involvement, and education efforts by the police,” said Lee.
Although crime is decreasing overall, Lee said burglaries are up by 13 percent. Many of those burglaries were reported in the western part of Annandale, but Lee reiterated his comments from the Mason District town hall meeting last month, stating that the group of suspects was apprehended and the suspects are currently awaiting prosecution.
Additionally, there are several "vehicle trespassing" cases plaguing the district. The vehicle tampering cases are unrelated to the burglaries, but Lee said police have determined that the individuals behind the trespassing are teenagers due to the nature of the crimes. Items, occasionally valuable items, are being removed from unlocked vehicles in residential areas across the district. The thefts are mostly occurring after midnight on varying days throughout the week, particularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Lee added that it does not appear the youths are targeting specific types of cars, just ones that are unlocked and parked either on streets or in driveways rather than in garages. In the mean time, officers are working jointly with neighborhood watch groups in an attempt to stop the incidents.
To prevent such crimes, Lee reminded residents to lock their vehicles and their homes and to remove all valuable items from a vehicle or place them out of plain sight when left in a vehicle.
'Annandale is Still a Safe Community'
Lee also addressed the recent media coverage of the sentencing of Korean Night Breeders Gang founder Han Sa Yu. Yu was sentenced last Friday to more than 17 years in prison for extorting Annandale businesses.
“I want to ensure that the community that I serve feels safe when you’re walking around Annandale and I don’t want articles like that to [create] any type of fear or unpleasant thoughts about Annandale. This is a great community we all live in and participate in,” said Lee.
Part of what was missing from the media coverage, specifically the Washington Post's story about the case, Lee said, was a lack of perspective from the law enforcement side. Lee implied that not all of Yu's victims sought or wanted help. Lee said officers were stationed at some of the restaurants targeted by Yu during the years Yu and his gang were present, but some owners would ask the officers to leave the premises.
“There is a strong police presence in Annandale. What I’m asking is that people don’t judge Annandale based on this incident because there’s a lot more than this article revealed. There’s a perception issue... I want to emphasize Annandale has never been this safe. It’s much more safer than ever before and we need to be very proud of that. I want to make sure that the people in my community feel safe and stories like that, without that perspective, make this seem like a bad community. There is no place for a gangster, low-thug wannabe like Yu in my community,” said Lee.
Robberies and Domestic Violence Statistics Also Decrease
While burglaries are on the rise, Lee said statistics show that street robberies are down by 25 percent. In addition, the number of reported domestic violence cases decreased from 358 to 293 in 2012. However, Lee said 293 was “still too high of a number.”
“Two-hundred and ninety-three is still too high, so it’s still a top priority for me,” said Lee.
On Feb. 23, the Mason District Station will sponsor its first self-defense class for women. The two-day class, which will be at a church in Falls Church, is intended to hep empower women who are victims of domestic violence and give them tools to defend themselves. Lee said the goal was to make the class accessible to victims in Mason District by hosting it locally.
Lee hopes the station is able to offer additional classes, but said they may not be able to without additional funds. Residents who are willing to donate and help pay for the course can submit checks to Mason District Station Self-Defense Fund.
Toward the end of the meeting, a resident asked Lee if the police department's safety efforts concerning schools changed or increased following December's where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.
“You prepare as best you can. You train and train and train,” said Lt. Archie Pollard, assistant commander of Mason District Station, who added that officers participate in active shooter drills to assess responses to various settings including school shootings. Pollard said officers no longer wait for tactical teams to respond. Instead, officers are trained to go in and attempt to assess and neutralize the threat. When responding to such events, Pollard said the biggest obstacle officers face is communication.
“You try and figure out what the threat is and how best to handle it and communicate that to the dispatcher,” said Pollard.
Pollard also explained that the Fairfax County Police Department works with Fairfax County Public Schools to coordinate safety efforts, including participating in tabletop exercises. Lee agreed with Pollard that the best way the police can be prepared is to train and prepare as much as possible for the worst case scenarios while also soliciting feedback from parents and students.
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