Neighborhood Watch

By Chuck Foster

On March 12 of 2020, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency due to the onset of the pandemic in the state. Because the ensuing efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus significantly impacted our daily lives, it is worth contemplating if trends in crime were impacted as well. 

According to the FBI’s analysis of crime trends during the first six months of 2020, there was a nationwide decline in many categories of crime when compared with the same period in 2019. Declines were reported for rape, robbery, larceny, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and property crimes. However, there were double-digit increases in murder, non-negligent manslaughter, and arson.

Using the website CityProtect, we are able to view incidents of reported crime in our local area. The following table reflects reported crime between March 12, 2020, and January 29, 2021, within the perimeter of Sunrise Valley Drive, South Lakes Drive, and Soapstone Drive. 

Reported Offense       Count

Destruction of Property 6            

Simple Assault 5

Larceny – Bicycle 3

Larceny – All Other 3

Larceny – Financial Fraud 2

Theft from Auto 2

Larceny – Theft from Building 1

Auto Theft 1

Prescription Drug Misuse 1

Disorderly Conduct 1

Strongarm Robbery 1

Simple Assault on LEO 1

Graffiti 1

In addition to the above incidents, the police department was summoned for a number of calls for service that did not result in the generation of a case number. These calls were categorized as suspicious event, warrant service, civil dispute, animal violation, lost/found property, natural death, and trespassing. 

Interestingly, a prior pre-pandemic period that was analyzed in this newsletter (the first half of 2017), shows that three offenses in the prior period do not appear in the current period. These are Burglary, Shoplifting, and Marijuana/Drug Paraphernalia. It appears that the absence of two of these three offenses may be related to school being out of session. In our area, shoplifting was most prevalent at the South Lakes Village Center and drug offenses were most prevalent at the high school. The decline in burglary may be due to the high number of residents who are home all day. Data indicate that burglars prefer to work in the middle of the day on weekdays because residents are most often away from home then.  

When considering recent trends in crime, it is important to consider the impact of the pandemic and the intense scrutiny of police practices on reported crime. There is anecdotal and empirical evidence that police officers in many areas of the country are avoiding citizen engagement to minimize both infection risk and violent encounters. This also extends to proactive police work, such as self-initiated investigations and community policing.      

The Fairfax County Police Department reports an increase in thefts from autos in residential neighborhoods. Thieves are finding little opportunity in office parks and parking garages because so many people are working from home. Autos left unlocked in parking lots, driveways, and open garages are easy targets.  

By all measures, Lakeport Cluster continues to be a very safe place to live. We can keep it that way by demonstrating common sense, vigilance, and care for our neighbors.   

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