The Reston District Station police force is open to working alongside the community to establish trust and transparency.
That is the message that Reston District Station Commanders Captain Thea Pirnat and Lieutenant Marc Mitchell discussed with residents during a virtual Hunter Mill Town Hall hosted by Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn on Tuesday.
“We recognize the fact that police work is a changing profession,” Pirnat said. “It’s been evolving for a long time; we will continue to evolve. There’s always room for growth and improvement.”
Pirnat and Mitchell said that the Fairfax County Police Department’s policies and its work for the community, specifically as it relates to the Reston District Station and the Reston community.
Pirnat described the trends the station has tracked in crimes over the last two years and said the county “is one of the safest communities in the entire nation.” She added the crime rate is three times below the national average and the area saw a “down tick” in most crime over the last year.
She shared that a number of statistics fluctuated from 2019 to 2020, with calls to the police dropping. Overall, Pirnat said the number of calls for criminal acts have decreased and traffic enforcement went down as well as DWI fatalities in the Reston District Station.
Pirnat provided statistics to emphasize the decrease in some calls from 2019 to 2020. Robberies dropped from 344 to 314 and burglaries dropped from 635 to 619.
While some crime reports dropped, there was a noticeable increase in weapon calls and motor vehicle thefts. Weapon calls increased from 455 to 518 and motor vehicle thefts increased from 863 to 1,273. Service calls also increased as mental health case calls increased from 4,715 to 5,000 from 2019 to 2020.
Though some numbers spiked, Pirnat said she believes “Reston maintained a very safe atmosphere.”
She added the department has taken measures to address community concerns, particularly in the wake of homicides and reported gunshots. One highlight she pointed to was the establishment of the Reston Engagement and Safety Enforcement Team (RESET).
Pirnat described RESET as an assortment of officers focused on “a more blended response to what was going on, to engage with community members, to communicate better, build the rapport, build the trust, in addition to increasing visibility and suppressing potential crime.”
RESET is currently focused on south Reston, and Pirnat said the team has already removed numerous guns off the streets.
In reference to two homicides, Pirnat commended the department’s work in closing the case in the shooting of Samuel Onyeuka, 20, within 96 hours last week. She also mentioned the homicide case from September in which Iris Ponce Garcia, 19, of Reston was shot and killed in the area of Colts Neck Road and Glade Drive. Pirnat said the case is still active.
“It has not gone cold. There are active leads,” Pirnat said. “The Major Crimes Bureau is very much on top of several new leads right now that they believe is going to result in closure in the near future. I will certainly stay on top of that and keep our community informed, as well will our Major Crimes Bureau.”
Pirnat and Mitchell both stated there is always work to be done for the future of the police force.
“As your police department, we shouldn’t be operating in a manner in which you want to know, ‘ how do you investigate an accident,’ ‘what is your use of force policy when it’s reviewed, or if there’s a complaint,’ or ‘what’s the proper response for this type of police investigation,'” Mitchell said.
“We want to be transparent, we want to be deliberate and we want to be clear.”
Mitchell and Pirnat said the department has launched initiatives to engage with the community and be transparent. Among those was the introduction of a dashboard that houses data including arrests, citations, warnings and police department training and policies.
Pirnat also said body-worn cameras had been part of conversations prior to a pilot program in the county and the “expedited” process to issue the cameras to officers in 2020.
The officers also said the department will continue to build on the work the county has taken to previously address concerns. Those efforts include bringing in the Police Executive Research Forum in 2015 to review use of force policies and practices, and rewriting policies and updating force policy to focus on the sanctity of life.
Photo via the Fairfax County Government website