Local Pilot Body Camera Program for Police Yields Mixed Results

The results of an analysis on the county’s pilot body-worn camera program are officially in. Researchers at American University found that the six-month pilot project could have limited results in enhancing policy-community relations increasing police legitimacy and accountability.

In a 119-page report that uses survey data from residents and police officers, researchers found that people had “modest expectations” about the necessity and benefit of body-worn cameras.

Less than half of survey respondents and interviewees noted that the devices would reduce complaints against officers, improve legitimacy or increase police accountability. Police officers also noted that it was unlikely that the devices would change their behavior or how community members responded to the police department.

“If the decision is not to deploy them, the high regard for the department will lead nearly everyone to conclude that it was the right decision for all,” the report states.

Researchers did not find any statistically significant changes in officer behavior and performance once the devices were deployed. They also found that respondents were unconvinced that the cameras would lessen the use of force by police.

The pilot program went into effect in March last year after Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler and a police commission suggested the idea. Last year, 191 cameras were deployed at the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston District Station, yielding more than 12,000 hours of video.

The police department found that judges, clerks of the courts and staff from the office of the public defendant generally supported the program.

If the program is implemented, the county would deploy 1,210 body-worn cameras to all operational police officers over five years. The Reston, Mason and Mt. Vernon district stations would be the first to get the cameras.

The program could cost nearly $30 million over a five-year contract period. The county would have to hire staff to manage the technical aspects of the equipment, improve station infrastructure and ensure public records laws were being followed.

Additionally, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney would need nearly $3.1 million for 23 positions to help review the footage, roughly $773,000 to help the court system use the videos generated by the cameras in the court-rooms, and $150,000 to boost storage capacity to capture video evidence.

The county still has to mull several issues:

  • The impact of the devices on prosecutors, public defenders and the court system is entirely unclear
  • The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office cannot accommodate planned growth
  • Whether or not cameras should be given to School Resources Officers
  • Training requirements for the defense bar
  • The possibility that future contract costs could increase

The report will be presented to the county’s Public Safety Committee today (July 9).

Photo via FCPD

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Pedestrian Walkway Improvements Planned on Sunrise Valley Drive

Two federally funded projects are in the works to improve the walkability of Sunrise Valley Drive.

The county plans to widen an asphalt trail on the north side of the road to 10 feet and install a new asphalt trail that will later be incorporated into a planned cycle track for the Sunrise Valley Drive corridor. That track will separate bikes from the pedestrian walkway, according to county spokeswoman.

On the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive, the county plans to install a five-foot concrete sidewalk. Currently, no walkway exists for pedestrians.

“There’s currently very narrow trails in that area or nothing at all,” Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said. “It’s not in great shape.”

Construction for both projects is expected to cost $1.5 million. The county anticipates receiving a contract award in July and construction is expected to begin later this year.

The projects are intended to improve access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station from surrounding communities.

Map (for reference only) via FCDOT

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Friday Morning Notes

Fatal Pedestrian Crashes Exceed Murder Rate in Fairfax County — Local officials are asking the public to avoid distracted driving in order to help prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being killed on the road. [WTOP]

‘Before the Flood’ Screening Tonight — The film follows  actor Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews scientists, activists and world leaders about climate change. The screening, which is part of an annual environmental film series, takes place at the Walker Nature Center from 7-9 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. A donation of $5 is suggested. [Reston Association]

County Proposal to Pay Legal Fees for Residents Facing Immigration Enforcement –– “As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approaches the May 7 deadline for budget adoption, one of the more intriguing, and potentially polarizing, items under consideration is a pilot program that would fund legal representation for county residents subject to federal immigration enforcement actions.” [Fairfax County Times]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Fairfax County Seeks State Funds for Two Pedestrian Safety in Reston

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking for $550,000 in state grants to fund two pedestrian safety projects in Reston.

The county is seeking $385,000 to add a pedestrian refuge island and flashing beacons to an existing crosswalk across South Lakes Drive at the eastern intersection with Tanbark Drive near South Lakes High School. The second project would add a pedestrian refuge island and rapid flashing beacons to improve safety at an existing crosswalk at Bluemont Way and Discovery Street for $165,000.

In late October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to request funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan grant program, which funds targeted improvements in areas with the potential for pedestrian crashes.

If the state awards funding to the county, county staff will draft project administration agreements with state transportation officials. The funding proposal for Reston is part of a $2.6 million request to the state. VDOT will notify jurisdictions about projects that have been selected for funding this month. Construction on approved projects is expected to begin in April, with a completion date of December 2019.

Construction is intended to happen on an expedited schedule in order to get “maximum return” on limited funding, according to state officials. As a result, projects that require right-of-way or easement acquisition, roadway widening and the replacement or relocation of curb and gutter will not be considered by the state.

File photo

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Your guide to Halloween — As ghosts and ghouls prowl the neighborhood streets tonight, here are some safety tips you should keep in mind as you head out and dress up. [Fairfax County Government]

Voting 101 — Election Day is just days away and with more than 70,000 active registered voters in the county, there’s a lot to catch up on. [Fairfax County Government]

Preventing pedestrians crashes — So far, 10 pedestrians have been killed in crashes in Fairfax County and 100 pedestrians have been involved in crashes. Drivers and pedestrians should keep the following tips in mind in order to prevent accidents. [Fairfax County Government]

Photos: Annual Public Art Reston party –– This year’s annual fundraising event for the nonprofit organization took place on the 16th floor of the Helmut Jahn building at Reston Station. [Public Art Reston]

Photo by Ray Copson

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Town Officials Mull Pedestrian Safety, Road Improvements to South Elden Street

Planning is underway for a host of improvements along South Elden Street in anticipation of the adoption of a concept plan next year.

The improvements will be partly financed through a $65,000 grant by the Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment in order to ensure transportation needs are addressed as more development happens along Elden Street between Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road. Anticipated changes will also make the stretch of the road more accessible and safe for pedestrians and vehicles.

Changes include increasing the visibility of crosswalks; updating ramps, signals and crosswalks for ADA compliance, adding bus stop shelters, widening existing sidewalks by three feet, and installing pedestrian refuge areas in medians.

A concept plan will be presented to the Town of Herndon Planning Commission on Nov. 19, with a public hearing set for Dec. 3. The town council will likely adopt plan next year. The town must spearhead planning this month in order to avoid repaying grant funds to the state.

Photos via handout/Town of Herndon

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Summer Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Campaign by Local Police Targets Problem Intersections

Pedestrian and bicyclist safety is on the radar of local police at the Reston District Station, particularly as the area becomes more urbanized.

In response to an increase in accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians during the summer, local police officers launched a public safety campaign. Although the campaign was focused on educating the public instead of enforcing violations, local police offered tips about safety, including obeying traffic signals and using traffic laws, to more than 1,000 residents.

The public safety campaign ran from June 4 through the end of the summer following the death of a 71-year-old pedestrian who was hit by a car in May. Police officers met with hundreds of residents to promote pedestrian safety and distribute literature in order to reduce accidents.

Accidents between pedestrians and cars have become more frequent, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

FCPD’s first priority was areas where pedestrian and car accidents have happened in the past. Other areas that were targeted have heavy traffic and pedestrian crosswalks, Sgt. Aaron Pfeiff told Reston Now.

“The public was very appreciative of the officer’s efforts and it was noticed that more pedestrians and bicyclist were obeying traffic signals and using crosswalks,” Pfeiff said.

Pfeiff identified the following intersections where officers focused their efforts:

  • Georgetown Pike/Walker Rd
  • Bluemont Way/Library St
  • Reston Pkwy/New Dominion Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Michael Faraday Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Isaac Newton Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Whiele Ave
  • Parcher Ave/Centreville Rd
  • Coppermine Rd/Thomas Jefferson Dr
  • Hunter Mill Rd/Hunter Station
  • Sunrise Valley Dr/Cross School Rd

Photo via FCPD

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County Mulls Longterm Improvements to Fairfax County Parkway

Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation is exploring ways to improve Fairfax County Parkway. In concert with the state transportation officials, the county plans to begin a multi-corridor study for Fairfax County Parkway from Route 7 to Route 1, covering a span of 31 miles with 83 intersections and 17 interchanges.

The study will offer longterm recommendations for 2040 and review whether or not changes to the county’s current transportation plan are warranted. According to the county, the study will offer “intensive analysis” to spot major problem areas and deficiencies.

Once completed, the study will explore the possibility of tolling and HOV lanes on the parkways, bicyclist and pedestrian mobility, the integration of transit, and if current intersections should be converted into interchanges, overpasses, and underpasses.

The county will lead a public meeting about the study in Reston on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in Armstrong Elementary School (11900 Lake Newport Road). A presentation by the county will be followed by an opportunity for public input at 8 p.m.

After initiating a public engagement period, the county will pitch possible ideas to the public by the winter of next year and kickstart another round of public outreach. Officials plan to solidify recommendations by the summer of next year, review study recommendations with the public in the fall and explore any comprehensive plan amendments that might be necessary by the spring of 2020.

A short term study on transportation issues and recommendations for improvements along Fairfax County Parkway and Franconia-Springfield Parkway was completed in 2016. The 113-page report included a mix of recommendations, including improvements to trail crossings on the northbound ramp from Fairfax County Parkway to Sunset Hills Road.

Other meetings on the longterm study are set for today at Navy Elementary School (3500 West Ox Road in Fairfax) and on Thursday at Sangster Elementary School (7420 Reservation Drive in Springfield).

Photo via Virginia Department of Transportation

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Bridge on W&OD Trail Over Wiehle Avenue Approved

An aerial bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over Wiehle Avenue could be constructed by October 2022.

Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved final design plans for the project, which is expected to cost $11.4 million, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The bridge includes retaining walls and directional access to Wiehle Avenue for trail users. Wiehle Avenue would be widened from Sunset Hills Road to the Reston Fire Station property in order to make way for future on-road bike lanes.

Plans have long been identified by the Reston Metrorail Access Group’s plan to improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access near the new Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station.

Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for FCOD, said design plans are currently 90 percent complete. The project timeline expects utility design and relocation to take a little over a year-and-a-half, land acquisition to take a year, construction authorization and permitting to take eight months and construction to take one year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the project faces the challenge of ensuring the bridge maintains synergy in the midst of urban properties that are coming together down the street.

The developer of the Isaac Newtown properties, which are being redeveloped, said they were concerned the project’s scale interferes with the development. County officials said they would work with the developer to mitigate any concerns.

However, according to FCDOT, the height of the bridge is necessary because the design of the bridge uses existing infrastructure in order to cut cost costs. The height is also vital to meet grade requirements and requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rendering via FCDOT

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Pedestrian Dies After Being Hit By Car Near Baron Cameron Avenue and Fountain Drive

A 63-year-old pedestrian was hit and killed by a car at the intersection of Baron Cameron Avenue and Fountain Drive last night around 9 p.m.

The news comes as local police launched a pedestrian and bicyclist safety campaign in Reston this week in response to an increase in pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents.

Police believe the pedestrian was midway through the crossing on Baron Cameron Avenue prior to Fountain Drive when a car in the right lane hit the man.

The driver of the Camry attempted to brake and swerve the car but was unable to avoid hitting the pedestrian police said.

The pedestrian was taken to the hospital and died from his injuries. His identity is being withheld until the family is notified.

Police are investigating whether alcohol was a  factor in the crash. Preliminarily, speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors, police said. The driver remained on the scene and called for help.

In late May, a 71-year-old pedestrian attempting to cross the street at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way was hit by a car and killed.

Anyone with information about the most recent incident should call the police department’s crash reconstruction unit at 703-280-0543.

Photo via Google Maps

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Local Police Launch Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Campaign in Reston

Following the death of a 71-year-pedestrian who was hit by a car in May, local police have launched a pedestrian and bicyclist public safety campaign in Reston.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District station will display information signs at busy intersections and step up enforcement of violations. The campaign began on Monday (June 4) and will continue through the end of the summer.

Changes in traffic patterns and an increase in pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents motivated the police department to launch the campaign, according to Sgt. Aaron Pfeiff.

Historically the Reston district has seen an increase in pedestrian versus motor vehicle accidents, and with the WOD bike trail running through the district, there are larger numbers of bicyclists,” Pfeiff told Reston Now.

Police will have an increased presence at “problem intersections” and intersections with heavy traffic from vehicles and pedestrians. Pfeiff said the department will also monitor the number of accidents at problem intersections. The police department was not immediately able to identify intersections that will be the top priority.

On May 21, Glanetta Nunn was crossing at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way when she was hit by a car and killed. The incident remains under investigation.

Photo via FCPD

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Sidewalk Installations Planned on South Lakes Drive

Expanded and upgraded sidewalks are planned on South Lakes Drive between Green Keepers Court and Twin Branches Road.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will provide information about the proposal at Reston Association’s Design Review Board on Tuesday (May 15) at 7 p.m. in Reston Association’s Conference Center.

In total, roughly 3,600 feet of sidewalk will be installed in the area, along with a bus shelter on Green Watch Way. Upgrades to curb ramps and six bus stops with ADA-compliant loading pads are also planned.

The project is divided into three segments: from Greenkeepers Court to Pond View Court, from Salt Kettle Way to Ridge Heights Road and from South Lakes Drive at Twin Branches Road.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the traffic signal at the intersection of South Lakes Drive and Twin Branches Road. Currently, a sidewalk does not extend to the intersection.

Land acquisition is expected to begin in the fall and be complete by fall 2019. Construction should begin around spring 2020, according to estimates from county officials.

Map/photo via FCDOT

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Crossing the Street at Reston Town Center? Wave A Flag.

If you’re a pedestrian, you probably know to look left, right and left again before crossing the street — at least in theory.

In some parts of Reston Town Center, some pedestrians might be adding another unconventional step: waving a flailing yellow flag.

According to the local blog Restonian, signage near the Hyatt Parking Garage indicates a crosswalk pilot program has begun at the edge of Reston Town Center.

Instructions encourage pedestrians to grab a yellow flag from the edge of the crosswalk and wave it until approaching vehicles come to a complete stop, according to the news blog.

Signs caution that the flags are “just a safety tool” and that “pedestrians are reminded to look both ways, make eye contact with the driver and exercise caution before entering all crosswalks.”

File photo

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FCDOT, Pedestrians Agree Increased Safety Needed at Parkway Trail Crossing

A handful of local residents joined Fairfax County Department of Transportation representatives Thursday at Dogwood Elementary School to discuss how best to increase pedestrian safety in the area of the Dulles Toll Road.

FCDOT hosted the community meeting to discuss options for proposed changes to the crossing of the Fairfax County Parkway Trail over the eastbound Dulles Toll Road ramp. In that area, the crossing is around a curve as cars northbound on the parkway turn onto the ramp.

“There’s no visibility, and they have to do something about visibility if they can’t do anything about the grade,” said Steve Steiner, who said he has particular interest in safety on the trail after being struck by a car two years ago at a nearby crossing and spending four days at Inova Trauma Center. “We’re putting a really expensive and massive transportation system and we’re trying to promote the use of the trail for commuting … and you want to try to make it safe and accessible.”

FCDOT has given two options for safety improvements at the intersection in question, which was flagged as part of the Reston Metrorail Access Group (RMAG) II improvements study. It is proposing either at-grade improvements including a signalized crosswalk, or the construction of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the ramp.

Adam Lind, FCDOT’s Bike Program manager, said neither choice was the department’s first option.

“Our original plan, actually, was a tunnel option [under the Toll Road ramp],” Lind said. “However, once we did a survey we found out there are four major utility lines and an underground stormwater tank — that pretty much nixed that option.”

The two options that remain have a vast difference in cost. The at-grade improvements would cost about $633,000 to implement, according to FCDOT, while the cost of the bridge would near $7 million.

Lind said the at-grade option focuses on improving sight distance by bringing the trail up to the shoulder of Fairfax County Parkway and creating two one-lane crossings instead of the current two-lane crossing over the ramp. He said options of stop signals for cars or the installation of a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon to alert drivers are also being considered.

The bridge option, Lind said, would require about 700 feet of structure. It needs to be so long and high, Lind said, to allow 18 feet of clearance on the ramp below it. The result would be a bridge that travels parallel to the ramp as its elevation increases, then crosses, then decreases in height back down to the parkway.

Lind said there will be a lot of other projects similar to this one in the area as connectivity to Silver Line Phase II Metro stations is addressed; however, he said, this particular intersection doesn’t directly affect Metro access.

“While this is a big and important connection for the county and the region, it doesn’t directly serve the Metro station,” Lind said. “If you’re coming from the north, you can get off at Sunset Hills … and if you’re coming from the south, you can access via Sunrise Valley Drive.”

While it may not directly connect with the Metro, local residents Norman and Barbara Happ said the crossing is very dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists and they are happy to see it being addressed.

“I can’t imagine anything being safer than the bridge, but at least with the [at-grade crossing] you could be seen,” Norman said. “With the Bikeshare coming in on the south side, there are going to be a lot more people using this.”

FCDOT will continue to collect comments on the project through Friday, Sept. 29. Those comments can be made online; by writing the FCDOT Bicycle Program at 4050 Legato Road, Suite 4050, Fairfax, VA 22033; or by calling 703-877-5600.

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Thursday Morning Notes

Lake Anne Concert Series Ends Tonight — The “Take A Break” concert series at Lake Anne Plaza will wrap up tonight with a show from Texas Chainsaw Horns, an R&B group, from 7-9 p.m. [Lake Anne Plaza]

Reston Association Budget Meeting Tonight — Sridhar Ganesan, treasurer and RA Board at-large director, will facilitate a budget-development community meeting tonight from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). According to information provided by Reston Association, members “are invited to share their thoughts and comments on issues related to next year’s budget.” [Reston Now]

Meeting on Fairfax County Parkway Trail Crossing Tonight — The County Department of Transportation has slated a community meeting to discuss options for improving safety at a trail crossing of a Dulles Toll Road ramp. The meeting is tonight from 6:30-8 p.m. in the cafeteria of Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive). [Reston Now]

Changes Coming to South Lakes Bus Route — To address crowding associated with South Lakes High School ridership, Fairfax Connector will shorten headways on some afternoon trips on Route 551 beginning Sept. 30. [Fairfax Connector]

2017 Virginia Tax Amnesty Program Begins — Until Nov. 14, delinquent individual and business taxpayers can pay back taxes with no penalties and half the interest. [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]

No More ‘Wiley’-Reston East? — In a tweet responding to a rider’s question, Metrorail says it is “exploring ways” to fix automated voice announcements that mispronounce the name of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. [Metrorail Info/Twitter]

File photo courtesy Karen Raffel

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