Police step up enforcement at Lake Anne Plaza after panhandling calls

Lake Anne Plaza fountain (via vantagehill/Flickr)

The Fairfax County Police Department has increased its presence around Lake Anne Plaza after receiving multiple complaints about men aggressively panhandling in the parking lot.

The department tells Reston Now that officers have responded to three separate calls about panhandling in the plaza’s parking lot within the past week.

“Those men have left the area prior to officers’ arrival on each occasion,” the FCPD said by email. “Commanders at the Reston District Station have directed officers to increase their presence in the area.”

The recent incidents have gone beyond basic panhandling, with people reporting being approached by men who ask for money and threaten violence when refused, according to posts in private community groups on social media, including NextDoor and Facebook, that were shared with Reston Now.

New Trail Cycling & Strength (1641B Washington Plaza N.) said in an email to patrons that one of its riders recently “had an unfortunate incident with someone asking for money in an aggressive way in the commercial lot.”

The indoor bicycling studio says both police and Lake Anne’s condominium management team were made aware of the incident, and officers will be patrolling the area more frequently.

“We wanted to remind everyone to be vigilant as you walk to your car,” New Trail said. “Always keep your eyes open and look around for people who may approach you. We encourage you to walk out with another rider. If you’re unable to do that, someone on staff is always happy to accompany you to your car.”

The FCPD advises community members to call its non-emergency phone line at 703-691-2131 if they encounter anyone “acting suspicious or aggressive.”

Police say the panhandling issues do not appear to be related to the spate of vehicle thefts that have been under investigation since early June. The majority of stolen vehicle reports have occurred in the McLean District, with just two incidents coming in Reston.

“At this time, there is no nexus between the panhandlers and the stolen vehicles,” the FCPD said.

While panhandling in public spaces is legal in Virginia, Fairfax County discourages people from giving money to individuals who ask for it, saying that they should instead be directed to social services that can provide more long-term assistance.

“While we may get a good feeling by providing money to directly to someone in need, the reality is that people in need require more resources than small amounts of money,” the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness says.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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