April 26, 2018
The following information is intended to assist residents of Lakeport Cluster in effectively dealing with criminal behavior on personal or common property.
The residents of Lakeport Cluster are not powerless to deal with children and adults committing criminal acts (e.g., vandalism, drug use, larceny and destruction of property) on our personal and common property. The local government (Fairfax County) affords us formal options by working with the police and the courts. And, in the case of children, remedies do not necessarily include conviction of a crime or incarceration. By holding criminals accountable, we will send a strong message that we are not tolerant. However, we need trained stewards of our community willing to help the police help us.
BEING GOOD STEWARDS OF OUR PROPERTY
Only a witness or victim of a crime may initiate a meeting with the police to make a report. As such, we need a number of residents willing and able to take the responsibility to report crime directly to the police.
*** The following section deals with witnessing a crime in progress ***
DEALING WITH CHILDREN VERSUS ADULTS
By the 7th grade, kids are well aware of the difference between right and wrong. And, as kids advance through high school, they become more and more aware of the criminality associated with certain acts.
In many cases, simply speaking with pre-teens and teens engaged in unacceptable behavior will make them stop. However, it is entirely up to you if you are personally comfortable speaking up given the circumstances. Your personal safety is the number one priority. For those of us that have had recent encounters with teens on the property, the kids, in general, have been respectful and friendly. However, we all know that there are kids that don’t listen to adults and are repeat offenders.
Teenagers should be held accountable for acts that are wrong and criminal. That is the only way they learn. Parents don't ignore misbehavior by their children. They confront them and hold them accountable. We should want the children in our community to have the opportunity to grow up to be responsible citizens and learning hard lessons can be part of that process.
What follows are instructions for (1) dealing with behavior that you deem to be unacceptable and (2) dealing with people that you believe are unapproachable. If an oral warning is not possible (e.g., safety related, adult perpetrator) or it is unwarranted (e.g., the behavior requires a police response), you have options for dealing with it. In no case should you approach an adult engaged in what you believe to be criminal behavior.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
What follows are abbreviated versions of the language in the Fairfax County Code. If you wish to read the actual Code language, you can use the following link.
Destruction of Property
It is unlawful for any person to willfully and maliciously damage or deface any public buildings, facilities, and personal property or any private buildings, facilities, and personal property. The penalty for violating this Section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Upon a finding of guilt in any case tried before the court without a jury, in the event the violation constitutes a first offense that results in property damage or loss, the court, without entering a judgment of guilt, upon motion of the defendant, may defer further proceedings and place the defendant on probation pending completion of a plan of community service work. Discharge and dismissal under this section shall be without adjudication of guilt and is a conviction only for the purposes of applying the ordinance in subsequent proceedings.
Any such community service work, to the extent feasible, shall include the repair, restoration, or replacement of any damage or defacement to property within Fairfax County, and may include cleanup, beautification, landscaping, or other appropriate community service within the County. At or before the time of sentencing under this ordinance, the court shall receive and consider any plan for making restitution or performing community service submitted by the defendant.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person convicted of a violation of this chapter of the County Code shall be placed on probation or have his or her sentence suspended unless such person makes at least partial restitution for such property damage or is compelled to perform community services, or both.
If any person shall without authority of law go upon or remain upon the lands, buildings or premises of another, or any part, portion or area thereof, after having been forbidden to do so, either orally or in writing, by the owner, lessee, custodian or other person lawfully in charge thereof, or after having been forbidden to do so by a sign or signs posted on such lands, buildings, premises or part, portion or area thereof at a place or places where it or they may be reasonably seen, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
WHAT ACTION CAN WE TAKE?
If you choose to summon the police, you have the option of being (1) an anonymous informant or (2) a disclosed witness providing evidence. The non-emergency number for the FCPD is 703-691-2131.
If you make an anonymous report, the police will arrive and look for the described activity. If the perpetrators are gone, the police officer will close the event as “GOA,” which means the perpetrators were gone upon arrival. No further action will be taken.
If you agree to meet with the responding officer, he/she will generate a case number and write a report. This memorializes the event and the case can be amended over time due to further calls for service and/or investigative findings. In addition to the existence of a police report, any time the police visit a given address multiple times, a history of prior calls for service is available in the police officer’s in-car computer.
If you summon the police and you are dissatisfied with the result, you can request to speak with a police supervisor or you can go directly to a Fairfax County Magistrate and request a judgment. In either case, you will have to be a credible witness and you must have compelling evidence. The Magistrate’s office is located outside the Adult Detention Facility, adjacent to the courthouse, in Fairfax City.
HOW DO I REPORT A CRIME?
Reporting a crime is not productive if you are a poor witness or you delay your call to the police. What is needed is an immediate call to the police and the following information:
WHO – WHAT – WHERE – WHERE TO -- WHEN
WHO – A detailed description of the perpetrators is necessary. Photos or video are ideal. If unavailable, carefully observe each person, starting at the top of the head and working down. (1) hat, (2) hair color/length, (3) facial features, (4) shirt or jacket color, style and pattern, (5) pants color, pattern and style, (6) shoes, (7) height and (8) weight. If you overhear a name, note it. Because our memories can be fleeting, write down what you saw as soon as possible.
WHAT – What did you observe that motivated you to call the police? What specific activity did you see occur? Provide a detailed description. Write down what you saw while it is fresh in your mind.
WHERE – Precisely where did the event occur?
WHERE TO – What was the direction of travel of the perpetrators when they left the area? Did they walk, run, ride a bike, get on a bus or get into a car? If so, be prepared to describe the vehicle and note the license plate number.
WHEN – Precisely when did the event occur?
HOW DO WE BAN SOMEONE FROM THE PROPERTY?
There are various reasons as to why it becomes desirable to ban someone from the property. However, in order to affect a ban, the requirements are specific.
If a non-resident is on Lakeport property and we determine that he/she is a nuisance or otherwise unwelcome, we can formally notify that person that he/she is trespassing and banned from the property. This decision may be made after a single incident or after a series of incidents. This process should be done with the assistance of a Fairfax County police officer.
In order to ban someone with legal effect, we will need the person’s (1) name, (2) address, (3) date of birth, (4) race and (5) sex. We will also need a FCPD case number and the card of the responding police officer. So how do we get this information? The responding officer has the right to detain and question someone if they are on private property without permission. Obviously, it could be ineffective and/or unsafe to attempt to get this information without the assistance of a police officer.
There are three methods for formally notifying a trespasser that he/she is banned.
1. Send the trespasser a letter, delivered certified mail, to his/her known address. Two days after the letter is sent, it is considered received. The letter must be signed by a formal representative (officer) of the HOA.
2. Ask the responding officer to provide a form letter. It is signed (three originals) by the HOA representative and the trespasser. The HOA, the trespasser and the police officer all receive a signed letter. The police department will maintain a scanned version that can be viewed by any officer on the computer in the cruiser.
3. Two authorized representatives of the HOA can provide a verbal ban to the trespasser in the presence of a police officer. The HOA should document the encounter. A Fairfax County Magistrate would likely consider this method to be the least desirable.
Once a formal ban has been communicated, the trespasser can be arrested for coming back on to the property. If he/she eludes arrest, a state-wide warrant can be issued.
** The following section deals with being a victim of a crime not witnessed **
HANDLING CRIME ON YOUR PROPERTY THAT YOU DO NOT WITNESS
If you discover evidence that your car or your home has been broken into, the best way you can help the police help you is to (1) call right away and (2) do not touch anything. Vital evidence, such as finger prints or boot prints, can be useless if the scene is tampered with. Don’t tidy up! For example, if you find your car door open, don’t close it.
The police will ask you a number of questions and the accuracy of your responses is very important. It is helpful to write down your impressions of what, where and when prior to the police arriving. This will mitigate memory loss.
Besides looking for identifying biometrics, police will analyze the modus operandi of the perpetrator. Does the method, timing, tools and types of stolen articles match other crimes in the area? Very often, criminals use the same methods over and over again if they are achieving success. If your effective cooperation assists the police in solving a series of crimes in the area, you may benefit multiple victims of the same criminal.
In summary, by getting the police involved, you create the opportunity to achieve justice for you and past victims (e.g., recover valuables) and take a criminal off the street that would have victimized others in the future.