A 30-year-old man pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors yesterday (Thursday) after a woman reported that he spied on her in a Lake Fairfax campgrounds bathhouse and masturbated.

The Herndon man scaled a cement wall to look at the woman on Oct. 27, 2020 from above while she was using a locked private room with a toilet, shower, and changing area, she said in a victim impact statement to Fairfax County General District Court.

During the incident, the man was in an above-ground area with a cement wall and wooden rafters, according to her statement. The wooden rafters are about 12 feet from a concrete floor, part of an open ceiling, noted police, who responded at Lake Fairfax Park around 7 p.m.

“The defendant’s pants were down to his ankles and he was masturbating while watching me use the toilet and washing up in the changing area,” the woman said in her statement. “When I noticed the defendant was watching me…I started screaming for help.”

The man was vigorously stroking himself, the woman said, and she continued to scream as she exited the bathhouse. He later confirmed to police that he masturbated inside the bathhouse.

“I was afraid during the incident that he might jump down on top of me and sexually assault or rape me,” the woman said.

A police dispatch said the woman exited the bathhouse, and campers surrounded it. When the woman spotted the man exiting, two campers from Reston detained the man, telling him to get on his knees.

When the woman left the restroom, she heard a thump, and the man later told witnesses that he hurt his hand, according to a police report.

An ambulance responded, and the man was taken to a hospital.

The man said in a letter on file with the court that his actions were horrible and “completely unacceptable.”

He apologized and said he has undergone counseling sessions to ensure this kind of incident never happens again.

“My wrist is a constant reminder of my mistake, and the pain and limitations it has resulted in,” he said.

The woman had been using the campgrounds with a tent. After the incident, she bought a used car and decided to leave the area without finalizing plans in an attempt to recover.

The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office had recommended a three-month jail sentence but allowed it to be suspended. They also dropped an indecent exposure charge from Aug. 20, 2020.

The man pleaded guilty to charges of simulated masturbation and peeping. The court sentenced him to one year of probation and required him to continue weekly therapy and receive mental health treatment.

Fairfax County says it has not altered the bathhouse facility or made any procedural changes, such as giving campsite guests who pay to stay there a key to access the bathhouse.

A county spokesperson labeled the case a “unique incident,” adding that that’s not to diminish its “importance or the impact on those who were affected by this behavior.”

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Morning Notes

A mother and child walk through Lake Anne Plaza (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Former Herndon HS Teacher Sentenced for Child Pornography — Former Herndon High School drama teacher Raphael Schklowsky was sentenced on Friday (Sept. 3) to four years and two months of jail time after pleading guilty to unlawful filming and possessing child pornography. Police said he had used dozens of hidden cameras to record at least 8,000 videos of students undressing, including one woman who testified in court. [NBC4]

Reston Man Faces Weapons and Marijuana Charges — A 30-year-old Reston man faces multiple charges, including carrying a concealed weapon and distribution of marijuana, after police found him trespassing a private property in the 2000 block of Sanibel Drive on Aug. 31. Officers reportedly found that he was unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon as well as multiple rounds of ammunition and “a large amount” of marijuana. [FCPD]

RA Seeks Volunteers for Pickleball Tournament — Reston Association is looking for volunteers who are 16 and older to serve as court monitors or runners for its inaugural Pickleball Paddle Battle Tournament, which will take place at Lake Newport and Autumnwood Tennis Courts on Sept. 18 and 19. Volunteer nurses or CPR-trained professionals are also needed to work the event’s first aid tent. Anyone who’s interested can contact Ha Brock, at [email protected] or 703-435-7986. [RA News]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A Reston man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for a bank fraud and identity theft scheme where he created fake COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Jonathan Drew, 39, was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria yesterday by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga. His 70-month prison sentence is significantly less than the maximum of 32 years that he faced for charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

He pleaded guilty to the charges on April 14.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced the sentencing. He was joined by Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, and Daniel A. Adame, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division.

“In addition to causing financial harm to the individuals from whom he stole checks and credit cards, the defendant’s sweeping criminal conduct also inflicted emotional harm and distress to his identity theft victims,” Parekh said in a statement. “As this case demonstrates, we are determined to hold accountable those who seek to illegally enrich themselves by defrauding and stealing from our residents.”

According to the DOJ news release, Drew stole the identities of more than 150 people between December 2019 and August 2020:

According to court documents, between approximately December 2019 and August 2020, Jonathan Drew, 39, stole U.S. mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. The mail Drew stole included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks, including a COVID-19 stimulus payment and checks Drew used to create counterfeit checks.

According to court documents, Drew used the stolen stimulus check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging from $1,200 to $2,400, and he negotiated his own authentically issued stimulus check twice. Drew also used the personally identifiable information of several individuals without authorization to lease an apartment; open bank accounts; and attempt to conduct fraudulent transactions through counterfeit checks, forged checks, unauthorized use of credit cards, and wire transfers.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olivia Zhu and Roberta O. Roberts, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg.

Attorney General Merrick Garland established a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force with the Department of Justice and other government agencies on May 17 to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the pandemic and the various relief programs created to address its economic impact.

The DOJ says people can stay alert for fraud involving COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, unemployment benefits, and taxes by not responding to unsolicited phone calls or emails and avoiding sharing personal or health information with anyone other than trusted medical professionals.

Anyone who thinks they might be a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the DOJ National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submitting a National Center for Disaster Fraud complaint form.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

People stroll along path at Walker Nature Center (Photo by Marjorie Copson)

Herndon Police Believe Sexual Assault Suspect Had More Victims — Detectives with the Herndon Police Department believe other people may have been victimized by a man they charged with aggravated sexual battery on June 30, according to a tweet. At the time of his arrest, the victim in the case told police that Carlos Morales López, 55, gave her a massage in the 800 block of Sycamore Court when he sexually assaulted her. [Patch]

Police Investigate South Lakes Bank Robbery — Police officers were dispatched to BB&T in the South Lakes Village Shopping Center yesterday morning (Tuesday) after a man reportedly entered the bank, grabbed the manager, and demanded cash before leaving the area on foot. No injuries were reported, and detectives are continuing to investigate the incident, which is the second time the branch has been robbed this year. [FCPD]

Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Reston Station Tomorrow — Reston Station will host a second COVID-19 vaccination clinic next to Founding Farmers (1904 Reston Metro Plaza) from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Anyone who visits the clinic to get their first dose will receive $15 gift cards to Starbucks and Big Buns Damn Good Burgers. Second Pfizer doses will be administered on Sept. 14 and 16. [Reston Station/Twitter]

Reston Community Center Starts ESports League — Embracing a trend that is also coming to Fairfax County Public Schools, Reston Community Center is teaming up with the platform GGLeagues to launch an esports program this fall. Players will compete from home using their own consoles and can choose from a variety of games. Each league will run for six weeks starting on Oct. 4, and registration will be open until Sept. 22. [RCC]

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Three individuals stole cash from people in a car last night (June 15) at the 2200 block of Winterthur Court, approximately the same location as a fatal shooting in March.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, three people ranging in ages from 20 to 37 years old approached the victims’ car near the Hunters Woods area around 11:04 p.m. and demanded money. One person entered the car and took cash before all three people ran away.

Officers found the three individuals, all of them Reston residents, in an adjacent neighborhood with the assistance of a police helicopter, FCPD confirms to Reston Now. They were detained and charged with robbery.

The 2200 block of Winterthur Court is the same location as where Santos Antonio Trejo Lemus, 40, of Reston, was shot and killed in March while walking near his home. Police have yet to identify the man who shot Lemus beyond saying that the person was male.

FCPD has offered a cash reward of $2,000 for tips and information related to the homicide.

The FCPD says it does not have any new information to release at the moment about the murder, and the department is still asking anyone who has information to call police or submit tips anonymously.

A reader who alerted Reston Now about last night’s police activity said that they were driving up Reston Parkway at around 11:20 p.m. when they saw parked police cars with their lights flashing at several intersections, including Glade Drive, South Lakes Drive, and Colts Neck Road.

They also noted that a helicopter was circling overhead in the Hunters Woods and Reston National Golf Course areas.

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Morning Notes

Former Herndon Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography — “A former Herndon High School teacher accused of taking inappropriate photos of dozens of students and possessing thousands of images of child pornography and other lewd material pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Fairfax County Circuit Court on Monday. Raphael Schklowsky, 38, of Reston admitted his guilt on nine counts as part of a deal with Fairfax County prosecutors.” [The Washington Post]

Police Still Looking for Fatal Hit-and-Run Suspect — Fairfax County police have determined that a car that left the scene of a crash that killed a pedestrian in Great Falls last week was a 2017 black Ford Fusion. Detectives believe the car model is a SE, Titanium, Platinum or V6 Sport package. [FCPD]

Electrify America Announces Agreement With Hyundai — The Reston-based electric vehicle charging network operator announced yesterday (Monday) that it will “provide all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5 drivers with two years of unlimited 30-minute complimentary charging sessions from the date of purchase at Electrify America charging stations.” [Electrify America]

Kids’ Hair Salon Opens in Sterling — The children’s hair salon company Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids has opened a franchise in the Town Center at Sterling shopping mall. Franchise owners Viral & Ami Doshi say the salon features kiddie cars, Xbox stations, and a glamour station, and each haircut includes washing, cutting, and styling as well as a balloon, lollipop, tattoo, and donation to a charity of the customer’s choice. [Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Recent thefts at Reston community gardens are leading to increased security and involvement of the police, Reston Association announced in a statement yesterday (May 10).

Just last week, thieves stole hundreds of dollars of plants from a community garden plot in Hunter Woods Park, Patch reported.

This isn’t the first time this has happened at the garden, which is located at 2501 Reston Parkway. Incidents of this nature date back at least two years, with thieves stealing materials, supplies, tools, and even a little girl’s garden gnome.

Reston Association previously installed a 10-foot chain link fence and motion detector lights, but that didn’t prevent this past month’s robberies.

“Before this season, there was no real fencing or locked gate,” Reston Association spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email. “So, this is the first break-in.”

The Fairfax County Police Department has received 23 theft reports from this particular community garden since last year, a police spokesperson tells Reston Now.

However, that number reflects the number of victims, rather than separate incidents, with many of the thefts occurring on the same day.

There have been six reported thefts in this past year alone, with three of them occurring on the same day. Many are happening between the months of May and July, according to the police spokesperson.

As a result, RA says it will ramp up security efforts at the community garden.

The organization is looking into upgrading the lighting and installing a trail camera that would help identify anyone coming or going from the garden. Its Central Services Facility team is also asking all gardeners to constantly check if the gates are locked and not to share the combinations with anyone.

Additionally, FCPD is increasing its presence in the area overnight to deter further thefts and break-ins.

Beyond safety concerns, gardeners spend a lot of time, money, and energy working their plots.

“We know how much the Reston’s garden plots mean to our community members,” Reston Association CEO Hank Lynch wrote in a statement. “Gardeners give their time and energy to help us manage these facilities and they get immense personal satisfaction out of growing their own plants and vegetables. We want residents of all ages to feel they can pursue this wonderful hobby in a safe and secure manner.”

The motives behind the thefts remains unclear, though one person told Patch that the nature of the stolen items and the methods used to obtain them, such as the unscrewing of wooden frames around the garden, suggest the culprits could be landscapers.

FCPD is continuing to investigate and follow-up on the reported thefts and encourages community members to report any suspicious activity they see in the garden’s vicinity.

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A Reston man pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday (Wednesday) to an elaborate identity theft and fraud scheme that included the creation of counterfeit COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Department of Justice announced.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which prosecuted the case at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, 38-year-old Jonathan Drew stole mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax County between approximately December 2019 and August 2020.

He used the stolen mail — which included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks — to open bank accounts, lease an apartment, and conduct other fraudulent transactions involving counterfeit and forged checks, wire transfers, and the unauthorized use of credit cards.

Among the stolen checks was an Economic Impact Payment check sent by the IRS as part of the federal COVID-19 relief efforts. Drew used that stolen check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging in amount from $1,200 to $2,400. He also managed to negotiate “his own authentically issued stimulus check twice,” according to the DOJ.

Drew pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga and announced by several local and federal officials, including interim Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer.

“We are firmly committed to holding accountable fraudsters who engage in identity theft and exploit a national economic crisis for personal gain at the expense of hardworking members of our communities,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said.

Drew has been scheduled for sentencing on August 25. He faces up to 32 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of two years.

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Morning Notes

Metro Proposes Delaying Funding for Silver Line Phase 2 — Unveiled yesterday (Monday), Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s revised FY 2022 budget proposal confirms that the second phase of the Silver Line will not open this year, though the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has maintained that the project will be ready for Metro to take over by Labor Day. [ABC7-WJLA]

Reston Woman Charged with Assault after Barricade — Fairfax County police arrested a woman on Sunday after she barricaded herself in an apartment on the 2200 block of Stone Wheel Drive in Reston. The hours-long standoff began when officers arrived to investigate a reported domestic assault and serve a warrant to 29-year-old Iesha Walker, who police say threatened to burn the building, shoot officers, and harm a family member and acquaintance who were in the apartment with her. [FCPD]

Reston Tech Company Partners with Baltimore RavensLeidos and the Baltimore Ravens will donate funds to support Oxford House in Silver Spring for the second year of their “Tackling Opioid Addiction” campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the ongoing opioid epidemic. [Baltimore Ravens]

Herndon Student Wins Statewide Art Contest — Sarah Saravanan, a first-grade student at McNair Lower Elementary School in Herndon, won the Virginia Lottery’s Thank A Teacher Art Contest, which invites students to create art that will be showcased on “thank you” notes sent to during National Teacher Appreciation Week on May 3-7. [Patch]

Photo by Ray Copson

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Fairfax County police are working to address recent crimes in the Reston District.

Reston District Station Captain Thea Pirnat and several officers discussed a number of questions and concerns during a virtual community forum on Tuesday.

The discussion revolved around concerns stemming from recent crimes including three homicides within the district and burglaries at the Hunters Woods Village Center last week. The officers also discussed the general police response to these crimes as well as investigative efforts for reports of shots fired.

Pirnat said the four burglarized businesses at the Hunters Woods Village Center last week were a series of “smash and grabs.” She said a stolen vehicle was used in the burglaries to try to steal cash. It is an ongoing investigation.

“That is not believed to be related to the homicides,” Pirnat said.

“We do actually have some really good investigative leads. They actually targeted Fairfax city first, and then later were involved in a pursuit down in Loudon.”

She added there is a trend in the region and other jurisdictions where a vehicle is stolen and used in thefts. Establishments with ATMs are targeted.

Lieutenant Marisa Kuhar, an assistant commander of FCPD’s Major Crimes Bureau, said police believe there is currently no connection between the three homicide victims.

She added police believe the first two homicide victims were targeted and that they are “leaning that way” for the third as well based on the number of rounds fired. Kuhar said they would explore the possibility of potential connections to gangs as a part of their investigation.

Pirnat shared data about calls for service about gunshots. The data show calls in the Reston District have increased over the last three years with 130 in 2018, 157 in 2019 and 185 in 2020. However, she clarified these calls relate to a caller’s belief they heard a gunshot and are not necessarily confirmed cases a firearm was fired.

She further outlined the department’s efforts to investigate calls about gunshots.

According to Pirnat, cases in which shots are heard are written and reports are sent to the department’s criminal investigative section (CIS) for information purposes. If shell casings or damage is found, it is written as “unlawful discharge” and actively investigated by CIS.

All cases are tracked to include firearm caliber to help identify potential trends. Additionally, all shootings with sustained damage require a consult with a CIS detective. If a house is damaged, then it’s a call-out for a detective.

Finally, if a person is shot or targeted, a consult with Major Crimes must take place.

She also said police presence has increased in and around the Hunters Woods area to increase visibility and deter potential crime. That includes the addition of a police cruiser last month that is driving through the area with a non-flashing light bar.

“We’re trying to be visible. We want to detect and deter crime,” Pirnat said. “We want people to get used to seeing us and trust us, and we’re trying to take a more graceful approach, if you will, and have these conversations.”

The increased presence also includes splitting the bike patrol team into two units and increasing the presence of the neighborhood patrol unit officers.

Sergeant Joe Woloszyn, the unit patrol supervisor in Reston, added the bike team is riding the bikes in addition to patrolling the area and walkways on foot. He said that the walkways seem safe to him during the daytime, but added that calls for suspicious people typically come out during the darker hours.

Woloszyn said they “see a lot of” calls about marijuana being smoked on the trails. Second Lieutenant Anthony Stancampiano, a patrol supervisor in Reston, clarified that the police will still respond to calls about marijuana, but since it was decriminalized in Virginia “it really does limit” the ability for officers to enforce other than asking individual for their ID and charging them with a summons to court.

Photo via the Fairfax County Government website

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

There is no more important function of government than ensuring public safety. The challenge in a constitutional form of government is achieving safety for the public without jeopardizing the rights and freedom of some to protect others. Public safety has been like a political football with some raising fears about crime and perceived threats to the community. Few is the number of politicians who until recently have been willing to suggest that our laws and institutions of justice require a review of the balance of public safety, the application of laws, and justice.

Over the last several decades there have been many political campaigns built around a suggestion of increasing crime rates and simplistic solutions to keep everyone safe. California started the trend with legislation with the slogan “Three Strikes and You’re Out” that increased penalties for repeated offenses. A governor’s race in Virginia was won by an underdog candidate with a slogan of “no more parole.” Legislative sessions during an election year would see more ideas about expanding the list of crimes for which the state could put someone to death, and the list lengthened of crimes for which mandatory minimum sentences were prescribed. At the same time guns became easier to purchase and own, and every mass shooting was followed by more gun purchases.

Capital punishment, extending the time prisoners were held, and arming more citizens resulted in Virginia being the number one state in putting people to death (first with an electric chair and more recently with lethal injections), increased prison construction, severe over-crowding of prisons, and protests at the state capitol in Richmond of over 22,000 armed persons.

The disproportionate impact on people of color and in minority communities has become glaringly clear as the videos of body-cam and other devices show us the unfair way some laws have been administered. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” hit a responsive chord as the inequities in administering laws became obvious.

With the outcome of the elections of 2019 and the election of more progressive members in the House of Delegates, Virginia has become more realistic in its dealing with criminal justice and law and order issues. Abolishing the death penalty was one of the first among many reforms taken. A recognition of the connection between Jim Crow laws of the past and current policing resulted in the repeal of laws that were most strongly felt in the Black community.

No-knock warrants were eliminated as were minor offenses that resulted in Black persons being stopped regularly by the police. A bill for the expungement of records of convictions for several misdemeanor crimes passed as did a bill to establish a process for seeking expungement through the courts for other crimes. Major progress was made in the discussion of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences with the likelihood that a bill will be passed in future sessions.

Some will call the actions of the legislature being soft on crime. I believe that a more realistic view is that the state has become less political and more balanced on ways to keep the community safe and to realize justice for more of our citizens. You will hear more of these opposing views in the campaigns coming up this fall.

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Local police have released the identity of a man who was shot and killed in a shooting in Reston late last week.

Santos Antonio Trejo Lemus, 40, of Reston, was shot and killed last Thursday in the 2200 block of Winterthur Court.

Although an autopsy on the exact cause of death is pending, police believe he died of gunshot wounds in the entryway of the apartment building. Police believe that Trejos was outside of the apartment building when an unidentified man began shooting at him at around 5 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman was also injured, but police are investigating to determine if the injuries were caused by shrapnel or fragments of building material damaged by gunfire.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, it is still unclear whether the suspect left on foot or by car.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact FCPD using the methods below.

Anyone who may have witnessed the shooting or may have seen the suspect flee the scene is asked to call our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.  

Image via Google Maps

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A new bill could potentially significantly limit how long the Fairfax County Police Department and other state police departments can store data obtained through automated license plate readers (ALPRs).

As originally written, SB 1198 would bar police from storing data obtained by ALPRs for more than 30 days without a warrant or ongoing active investigation.

ALPRs have the ability to collect data and information like photos of license plates as well as a driver’s location at a particular date and time. They are often mounted on street poles, overpasses, or police square cars while a central server houses the data.

A number of civil liberty organizations like the ACLU have come out against the use of ALPRs as an invasion of privacy and chilling First Amendment protected activity.

The Virginia State Supreme Court ruled late last year that police departments are allowed to keep this data “indefinitely,” no warrant or investigation needed. This came after a Fairfax County judge ruled otherwise in 2019, saying that it was in violation of Virginia’s “Data Act.”

While some jurisdictions do purge this data relatively quickly, the Fairfax County Police Department does not.

Reston Now has confirmed that FCPD stores information collected by ALPRs for up to a year.

Their reasoning is that the information helps protect the community and locate missing persons.

“Using technology such as license plate recognition has improved our ability to safeguard Fairfax County,” Anthony Guglielmi, FCPD spokesperson, told Reston Now in a statement. “With that, we have stringent systems in place to protect the information privacy and constitutional rights of those we serve. We appreciate efforts to further study this important issue because it’s paramount that we strike an equitable balance between data retention and investigational integrity.”

The state bill was introduced by State Senator Chap Petersen who represents the 34th district, which covers Fairfax, Vienna, Oakton, and parts of Chantilly.

He introduced a similar bill back in 2014 and 2015, which limited storage of data to only seven days. That 2015 bill, which did have bipartisan support, was vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe.

“License plate readers… capture the movement of vehicles. They track who’s attending a church service, who’s attending a political rally, a gun show,” Petersen tells Reston Now. “It can be very arbitrary and very dangerous in that… it’s used to essentially put a layer of surveillance over citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights.”

The bill also notes that opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and the right to due process could be “endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems.”

That being said, Petersen notes his bill does not stop the collecting of this information but rather simply adds a “limitation” – 30 days – on how long information of this nature can be stored.

Additionally, the 30-day limitation is dropped if a warrant is obtained or there’s active criminal or missing person investigation.

“Frankly, it’s a pretty modest requirement,” he says.

Petersen says it’s this lack of “guardrails” that worry him and why he’s continued to propose bills of this nature.

“They say they have all types of internal controls. But who’s the judge of that?,” he says. “Who the heck knows who has access and who doesn’t. It’s the ability to use this [information] arbitrability or prejudicially that we have no control over.”

Besides police departments, information collected by ALPRs have also been used by revenue commissioners to confirm payment of property taxes (as is the case in Arlington County).

A slightly altered version of the bill did pass the Senate, but the House amended the bill to “establish a stakeholder workgroup to review the use of license plate readers” as a substitute for the 30-day limitation of storage.

“When my bill came out of the Senate, it was going to be an actual law. The House turned it into a study,” says Petersen. “Which basically kinda neuters it.”

The ACLU of Virginia agrees, with Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga writing Reston Now in an email that the organization “strongly supports SB1198 as introduced.”

“A requirement that government have a reason for collecting information about you and limiting the retention periods on data collected for no reason is reasonable,” she writes.

However, Petersen admits that it seems like he’s “hit a wall” in terms of getting his version of the bill passed. He doesn’t see a ton of value in a study, so he’s not going to accept the House amendment.

However, it does not alter his long-term goals that this bill could assist with.

“That’s limiting the amount of information the government can collect on its citizens,” he says. “We live in a free society… the government should not be tracking its own citizens.”

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A new bill introduced by VA Del. Ken Plum of the 36th District would repeal mandatory jail sentences for second and subsequent misdemeanor larceny convictions.

Under current Virginia law, anyone who is convicted of a second misdemeanor larceny conviction is subjected to a mandatory jail sentence of at least 30 days (but not more than 12 months). A third misdemeanor larceny conviction is a Class 6 felony, punishable with at least a year in jail.

Misdemeanor, or petit larceny, is defined as theft of items under $1,000. The law was first passed more than 50 years ago. The bill passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a 52 to 45 vote with three delegates not voting.

If approved, Plum’s bill would change the mandatory jail sentences. Plum is a Democrat and a long-time delegate for a district that covers a large portion of Reston. He has a weekly opinion column on Reston Now where he discussed this very topic.

The bill would not repeal all punishments for petit larceny, simply not make a jail sentence mandatory on second and subsequent convictions.

Plum says he believes the current law works against people of color.

“What we’ve come to recognize is that laws are not just in Virginia. They’re not always appropriate to the severity of a crime versus punishment,” he says. “It works to the disadvantage of those people of color… or those disadvantaged by income or social status.”

He cites statistics and explanations from Justice Forward Virginia, a political action committee advocating for criminal justice reform in Virginia, to justify why he’s introduced this bill.

“Incarcerating someone for 5 years for stealing something worth less than $,1000 is facially unreasonable,” reads their website. “Whatever value we may place on the security of someone’s property, imprisoning someone for five years for shoplifting doesn’t make sense.”

Justice Forward Virginia also notes that this law disproportionately impacts those most vulnerable. This could mean those who suffer from mental illness, substance use disorders, or are homeless.

Plum agrees with this assessment.

“There are a lot of people who steal things because they don’t have enough to eat. They don’t have the kind of family support that they need and their last is related to survival,” he says.

He says severe penalties like those in current Virginia law are simply piling on folks that can least afford it.

The repealing of the law could also save the Commonwealth money.

According to HB 2290’s fiscal impact statement, approximately 1,000 cases were impacted by this law in the fiscal years of 2019 and 2020. Of those, 792 were sentenced to a jail term.

Prisoners cost money but Plum says that was not a major factor in the bill’s consideration.

“We save a few bucks, but mainly what we do is we save lives of people who get caught up in the criminal justice system,” he says.

One of those voting against the bill is Delegate Mark Cole of the 88th District, which covers parts of Fauquier, Spotsylvania, and Strafford Counties.

In an email to Reston Now, Cole said he voted against the bill because it lessens the punishment for repeat offenders.

“If you are going to give someone a break, it should be a first offender that may be unlikely to re-offend, not a repeat offender,” he wrote.

The bill has been referred to the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee.

Photo via David Clarke/Unsplash

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Great Falls Resident Arrested and Charged with Child Pornography Incidents — Stefan Julian Koza, 33, was arrested by the Herndon Police Department on five felony counts of possession of child pornography and five felony counts of distribution of child pornography. The arrest was made on Dec. 2. [HPD]

Reston Company Merges with Fairfax-based Company — Reston-based Octo Consulting Group, Inc. has announced a deal to combine with Fairfax-based Sevatec Inc. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Monitors Service Impact of Weather Storm — “Metro is closely monitoring a winter storm that may impact travel conditions Wednesday. Based on the current forecast, Metrobus customers may experience delays or detours as outlined in Metro’s ‘light snow plan.'”[Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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