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 Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the host(ess) with the most(ess) Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:06:02 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com  This holiday season, don’t settle for picking up a bottle of wine or pre-packaged goodie bag on your way to a holiday party. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of company Christmas parties, holiday dinners and parties by browsing through our selection of local goodies that are sure to impress even the pickiest […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com 

This holiday season, don’t settle for picking up a bottle of wine or pre-packaged goodie bag on your way to a holiday party.

Prepare yourself for the onslaught of company Christmas parties, holiday dinners and parties by browsing through our selection of local goodies that are sure to impress even the pickiest host or hostess in your life.

Balducci’s

Regional food market Balducci’s has long been an institution in Old Town at its 600 Franklin St. location, even dating back to its days as Sutton Place Gourmet.

The store offers a number of gift options, including a large selection of wine and prosecco, pantry essentials like vinegar, olive oil and spices, ready-to-go desserts and gift baskets.
For those who are difficult to shop for, Balducci’s offers a wide range of gift baskets, including selections under $50 like a gluten-free basket ($48), a snack basket ($48) or Sweet Sippings ($46), which includes Balducci’s coffee, breakfast tea, cookies, strawberry preserves and honey. If you have more resources to spare, the “Balducci’s Cupboard” ($135) has a selection of just about everything the store has to offer, including pasta, coffee, olive oil, vinegar, jam, truffles and cocoa or sweet smorgasbord “Tempting Treats” ($260).

Balducci’s recommends: “Lady Godiva Gift Basket” ($75); “Balducci’s Prosecco Brut” ($12.99)

Where to get it: Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market, 600 Franklin St.

Blüprint Chocolatier

Founded by Kim and Bruce Gustafson, Blüprint Chocolatier has been operating at 1001 King St. since 2005. All of their chocolate is made on site and comes in a number of holiday flavors, including sugar plum, gingerbread, candy cane, eggnog and the Swedish-inspired glögg, a traditional
mulled wine. If you’re not looking for holiday flavors, the store also offers chili cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, vanilla bean, raspberry, lavender honey, espresso, lime in the coconut and more.

The chocolate lover on your holiday shopping list may enjoy Blüprint’s holiday chocolate gift box, which can be picked up in person or ordered online (place holiday orders before Dec. 19). The “holiday sixteen” gift box offers 16 chocolate selections for $32, while Blüprint’s “holiday double dozen” gift box includes 24 chocolates for $48.

Blüprint recommends: “Holiday sixteen” gift box ($32); “Holiday double dozen” gift box ($48)

Where to get it: Blüprint Chocolatier, 1001 King St. (Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; Noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday; Closed on Monday)

Department of Beer & Wine

This relatively new addition to Alexandria sells a large selection of craft beer and wine in Potomac Yard. Partners Jeff Sapsford and Stevie Treichel, veterans of various beer emporiums like Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna, Virginia, first opened the store in August. The store also offers exotic candies and goodies, all which are curated by fellow partner and Sapsford’s wife, Melissa Sapsford.

For those who are looking to bring an alcoholic beverage to a holiday party or family gathering that’s not run of the mill, Department of Beer & Wine offers growler and 32-ounce crowler (same concept of a growler, but in a can) fills of winter warmer beers like Prairie Artisan Ales’ Christmas Bomb! (13 percent ABV), Devils Backbone Brewing Co.’s Dead
Bear (11 percent ABV) and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Celebration Ale (6.8 percent ABV). Explore the full selection of bottled beer and wine selections in person by visiting the retailer’s Jefferson Davis Highway location.

Department of Beer & Wine recommends:
For beer fans – Blackberry Farm’s Winter Saison ($18.49); For wine fans – Stolpman’s Para Maria de los Tecolotes 2016
($24.99); For candy fans – Bang Candy Co.’s Honeycomb Toffee ($12.99)

Where to get it: Department of Beer & Wine, 2724 Jefferson Davis Highway (10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Sunday)

The Hour

When the time for a nightcap arrives, The Hour will help you sip in style. Victoria Vergason has operated the upper King Street shop since October 2008, featuring an array of vintage, elegant and quirky barware, cocktail glasses and sets, pitchers and decanters and trays and bowls.

The Hour’s style draws from early 20th-century home entertaining, harkening back to Prohibition to midcentury era traditions that fit into the modern host or hostess’ lifestyle. The Hour’s selections include glassware that ranges from the 1920s to the 1970s – and those who are looking for holiday-themed wares are in luck. For barware that’s classic or can’t be found just anywhere, you can browse The Hour’s wares in person at 1015 King St. or online.

The Hour recommends: Top Hat Pump Decanter Set ($450); Evans Gold Bar Tool Set ($225)

Where to get it: The Hour, 1015 King St. (Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday; 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday); www.thehourshop.com

Planet Wine

Located centrally on Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue, Planet Wine is a promising destination for those seeking a perfect wine-related gift. The wine shop has been located next to Evening Star for more than a decade and is still operated by the Babin family and Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

Planet Wine offers something for just about everyone, boasting a selection of about 2,000 wines and specialty beers. For those who aren’t sure just what to get, attend one of Planet Wine’s twice-weekly tastings or ask experienced staff for a recommendation. If beer is more your speed, Planet Wine is offering four packs of beer curated by Neighborhood Restaurant Group Beer Director Greg Engert.

Planet Wine recommends: Holiday Pops Beer 4-Packs ($12 to $15); Thierry Triolet Brut Grande Reserve ($86); 2013 Opus One ($318)

Where to get it: Planet Wine, 2004 Mount Vernon Ave. (Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday)

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 Our View: It may be time for an Alexandria drug court Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:54:19 +0000
If one thing is clear from the Alexandria Times’ in-depth series on the opioid crisis this year, it’s that there’s no single or easy solution to the problem. Most urgent is the immediate response to an overdose, because that’s literally when life and death hang in the balance. Consequently, Alexandria police and EMT leaders have […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

If one thing is clear from the Alexandria Times’ in-depth series on the opioid crisis this year, it’s that there’s no single or easy solution to the problem.

Most urgent is the immediate response to an overdose, because that’s literally when life and death hang in the balance. Consequently, Alexandria police and EMT leaders have made the drug naloxone part of responders’ “tool kits.” This medication, sold under the brand name Narcan, is the overdose victim’s best chance for immediate survival.

Steps have also been taken to protect front-line responders. The Alexandria Police Department no longer field tests suspected drugs. Instead, the substance is taken into a lab for safe testing. In this way, police officers, firefighters and EMT workers are protected from exposure to drugs like carfentanil, which are exponentially more dangerous than heroin and can kill if simply touched or inhaled.

Work is also being done to address long-term issues of supply and demand.
Today’s Times contains stories on two significant drug busts of individuals detained for dealing over the past two weeks. This week, two men were arrested for running a New York-to-Alexandria drug operation. Last week, four Alexandrians were among 28 arrested on drug and weapons charges.

Yes, there will continue to be those who are driven by greed and are willing to turn a blind eye to the destruction caused by the drugs they sell.

But shifting the criminal justice emphasis even more definitively from the user to the dealer – as detailed in today’s story, “Justice in the midst of a crisis” – is the right approach. Sentences for big-time dealers should be lengthened to ensure lifetime incarceration.

Progress on the demand side is slow because there’s not a single path to addiction. Education efforts are ongoing, but educational initiatives have been around for many years with limited success. Remember the initiative “Just say no to drugs,” led by former First Lady Nancy Reagan back in the 1980s?

A shift in attitude away from prescribing as much pain medication is underway, as explained in the Oct. 19 Times story “Life on the front lines of Alexandria’s opioid crisis.” This is a helpful step toward reducing demand, as addiction to prescription medication rivals that of street drugs – and users often eventually turn to heroin, which is cheaper. However, it will take time to see measurable results from tightening the spigot on prescription pain medication.

Where more can be done locally is in the intermediate sphere of treating addiction, which falls in between preventing drug use and responding to an overdose. This means more local financial resources will need to be devoted to treatment and rehabilitation. Our June 15 story, “City treatment program faces staffing, funding constraints” demonstrates that public resources are limited for addicts who are trying to give up drug use.

One approach that has potential, which is under study, would be to establish a drug court in Alexandria. A structure and framework for how it would operate is expected to be unveiled early next year. This court would be part of the movement away from punishing users and toward providing them with ongoing support as they try to become – and stay – sober.

Yes, we are in an era of tight budgets and fierce competition for scarce resources. Perhaps it will be decided that a drug court will prove too expensive for the benefits it would provide. But if not this structure, then something – requiring more on-going, dedicated funding – is needed to help opioid addicts in Alexandria have a better chance at rehabilitation.

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 Alexandria City Public Schools names new superintendent Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:29:08 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., a T.C. Williams High School alum, was selected by the school board as Alexandria City Public Schools’ new superintendent, ACPS announced in a press release Thursday morning. Hutchings will begin his new position with ACPS in July 2018 after completing his fifth year as superintendent […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr., a T.C. Williams High School alum, was selected by the school board as Alexandria City Public Schools’ new superintendent, ACPS announced in a press release Thursday morning.

Hutchings will begin his new position with ACPS in July 2018 after completing his fifth year as superintendent at Shaker Heights Schools near Cleveland, Ohio. Hutchings isn’t only a product of ACPS – he’s also a prior school district leader, working within the system from 2010 to 2013. He first served as director of middle school programs for ACPS and later as director of pre-K-12 initiatives.

Hutchings’ appointment follows previous superintendent Dr. Alvin Crawley’s departure in July of last year. Since Crawley left for a faculty position at George Mason University, Dr. Lois Berlin has acted as interim superintendent.  

“We are really pleased to welcome a superintendent who has already been a part of our community, both as a student and as an educator,” Cindy Anderson, school board vice chair said in the statement. “His demonstrated commitment to closing achievement gaps will be invaluable in working to meet the needs of our diverse student population.”

Look for the full story in the 12/21 Alexandria Times.

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 Alexandria Sports Roundup: Week of Dec. 14 Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:48:56 +0000
The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes School and T.C. Williams High School. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date. This winter, the sports […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Alexandria Times sports roundup includes records and game results for the prior week in two sports per season for Alexandria’s four local high schools: Bishop Ireton, Episcopal, St. Stephens and St. Agnes School and T.C. Williams High School. Records will be presented alphabetically, while results will be listed by date.

This winter, the sports included are boys’ and girls’ basketball. We will also be running photos with captions from games and encourage readers to send timely photos for submission to newstips@alextimes.com. We will also continue covering games from various sports, as well as running sports features about Alexandria athletes.

Boys’ Basketball:

School Record:

Bishop Ireton 0-2
Episcopal 4-0
SSSAS 3-1
T.C. Williams 0-4

Scores this week:

Dec. 7
BI L 58-56 vs. Benedictine
Episcopal W 59-52 vs. Flint Hill

Dec. 9
Episcopal W 72-34 vs. The Heights

Girls’ Basketball:

School Record:
Bishop Ireton 3-0
Episcopal 5-0
SSSAS 4-2
T.C. Williams 3-0

Scores this week:

Dec. 6
SSSAS W 49-26 vs. Sandy Spring Friends

Dec. 7
BI W 55-25 @ Chopticon
Episcopal W 58-55 vs. Potomac School

Dec. 8
SSSAS W 30-28 @ Mercersburg Academy
TC W 59-47 @ Yorktown

Dec. 9
SSSAS L 57-51 vs. Goretti

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 North End group presents community-enhancing plan to council Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:53:51 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com At city council’s legislative session on Tuesday evening, the North End Quality of Life Work Group presented a community action plan for bettering the neighborhood. Alexandria’s North End community generally encompasses the areas south of First Street, east of the Braddock Metro, West of North Washington Street and North of […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

At city council’s legislative session on Tuesday evening, the North End Quality of Life Work Group presented a community action plan for bettering the neighborhood. Alexandria’s North End community generally encompasses the areas south of First Street, east of the Braddock Metro, West of North Washington Street and North of Oronoco Street.

The group was established in 2016 as an ad hoc work group that would meet during the course of a year to identify problems that impact the safety and overall quality of life for residents and businesses in the North End.

“The group developed an action plan focused on creating a cohesive sense of community,” Hillary Orr, special assistant to the city manager, told council.

“The goals and strategies outlined in this report are designed to create a unified neighborhood with the knowledge of and access to services that support every member of this community, allowing them to thrive and excel,” she said.

Group members, including chair and former mayor Bill Euille, outlined the goals they hoped to achieve in creating a cohesive sense of community in the North End, along with suggested strategies to reach those goals. The work group also touched on the processes they had gone through to reach these conclusions, financing and criteria to evaluate the goals in the future.

The action plan is detailed on the city’s website. It includes goals such as enhancing trust between the community and the police, providing positive role models for young people in the neighborhood and ensuring residents have access to existing community services and programs.

“I’d like us to be sure to work towards making sure that some of these suggestions are … brought forward through civic associations and various departments so we can work together to make sure that we’re moving forward,” Mayor Allison Silberberg said.

One full year after the plan takes effect, staff will provide updates on each of the action items based on the group’s established evaluation criteria.

“The outreach to those that are young as well as seniors and everyone in between, I love that,” Silberberg said. “This effort’s going to need to continue, but not just in this particular neighborhood … it’s a great model for across the city.”

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 Lady Titans look to take next step Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:33:52 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com The T.C. Williams varsity girls’ basketball team has charged into the new season hungry for victory after a 2016-17 season that was full of promise, but came up one game short of reaching the state championship tournament. In the team’s final game last year, the Lady Titans lost 50-44 to […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

The T.C. Williams varsity girls’ basketball team has charged into the new season hungry for victory after a 2016-17 season that was full of promise, but came up one game short of reaching the state championship tournament. In the team’s final game last year, the Lady Titans lost 50-44 to Oakton.

While most people would be happy with the Lady Titans’ 25-2 record last year, the team and Head Coach Nakesha Walton were left wondering about what might have been. Walton said the team has been using last year’s disappointing conclusion as motivation for the 2017-2018 season.

Walton said the team this year was focused on staying “disciplined, humble and hungry.” So far, the approach has led to five wins since their opener on Dec. 1.

“Every game for us, we have to bring our top notch, our A game,” Walton said, “because we have a big boulder on our back where everybody’s trying to see if we come up short or see if they can beat us.”

The team this year is composed of four seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Of the 11 players, five are returning from last year’s team. Walton said the veteran varsity players have been acting as role models for the new players and helping to integrate them into the team.

“Our newcomers have fit right in,” Walton said. “They all play quality minutes. It’s never a drop with the rotation, so I’m pretty ecstatic about our sophomores and even our freshman stepping up into the role of being a varsity high school basketball player.”

Not only does the team have a positive dynamic on the court, they spend time together outside of practice as well, bonding and supporting each other academically.

Junior Trinity Palacio said Walton organized study halls for the team to help them incorporate schoolwork in their basketball-heavy schedules. She said her teammates were like family, whether going out to eat after a win or getting competitive over a game of bowling.

Palacio has been a point guard for T.C. varsity basketball since she was a freshman. She said Walton was responsible for her improvement as a player.

“When I first came here my freshman year, [Walton] really helped me, freshman year to junior year, just become a better player and mature,” she said. “She’ll make you into a great player.”

Walton has been coaching basketball at T.C. Williams since 2004. She said the team looks at her as a tough coach because she doesn’t let them take success for granted.

“I don’t let them slack on anything,” Walton said. “Even though we may come off on … a five-game winning streak, I’ll come back like we’re coming off a fivegame losing streak, just to kind of stay on ‘em and aim for perfection.”

Palacio said the team this year could improve by preparing for close games and working on free throws. She also said the team has a strong defense, but that it sometimes gets them into foul trouble.

“We’re a good defensive team, and I think since we’re so aggressive … the refs call it how they want to,” Palacio said. “We foul a lot.”

“We’ve been fouling incredibly too much,” Junior Sasha Bates concurred. “It’s getting bad this year.”

Bates, a three-year varsity shooting guard, said the fouls were a minor obstacle the team would get past.

“Our strength is that everybody fills their role as a team and nobody can stop us,” she said. “If we just calm down and be ourselves, we’ll be very true to our team and be amazing.”

At Wednesday evening’s home game, the Lady Titans defeated Osbourn Park 65-42, locking in a five-game winning streak. They take on Capital Christian Academy at home on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

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 Opioids in Alexandria: Justice in the midst of crisis Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:04:52 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos and Missy Schrott | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com Before the opioid epidemic reached a fever pitch in 2015, the Alexandria Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was seeing early signs of a looming problem. Bryan Porter, who began working in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office in 2001 and was elected commonwealth’s attorney in 2014, watched as drug […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos and Missy Schrott | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

Before the opioid epidemic reached a fever pitch in 2015, the Alexandria Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was seeing early signs of a looming problem.

Bryan Porter, who began working in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office in 2001 and was elected commonwealth’s attorney in 2014, watched as drug cases transitioned from powder cocaine, crack cocaine and PCP in the early 2000s to heroin, prescription pain pills and fentanyl around 2012.

“I would say, while a decade ago those heroin cases took up 5 percent of our case load, they’re probably now 50 percent, if not a little bit more,” Porter said.

Since 2012, Porter has seen increases in the number of cases related to both prescription opioids and heroin. Porter’s observation is backed up by national statistics.

The number of heroin overdoses tripled from 2010 to 2014, while deaths from prescription opioid overdoses rose to 15,000 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Almost 30,000 people died nationwide of opioid overdoses in 2014 alone, according to the CDC.

The rise in crime and deaths associated with opioid abuse has required nuanced thinking and approaches from both law enforcement and the court system. Both the Alexandria Police Department and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in recent years have changed their focus from individual users to those who are higher up the food chain, including dealers, suppliers and those leading drug trafficking pipelines.

“As a prosecutor, you really have to kind of separate out people who have an addiction problem [from] the people who are feeding that addiction,” Porter said.

Lieutenant Michael Kochis, commander of the Alexandria Police Department’s vice/narcotics unit, said the police’s approach is in that same vein.

“Our mission is to focus on drug trafficking organizations as opposed to individual users. What that means is when we come across a case, we try to identify the organization behind a specific source of narcotics, whether you’re talking about heroin or opiates or fentanyl or whatever it may be,” Kochis said. “Based on different investigative techniques we use, we try to get to that point.”

Porter and Kochis’ approach was on full display this week with the arrests of two New York natives who purportedly have roles in a larger drug trafficking network that transported drugs from New York City to the City of Alexandria.

Digging deeper

Samuel Lebron, 38, and Jeffrey Montilla, 37, both of New York City, were issued indictments by the Northern Virginia multi-jurisdictional grand jury on Monday for charges that include the conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. With this effort, city leaders believe they struck a fatal blow to a known trafficking network that funneled
drugs into the city over a number of years.

The arrests, made as a result of a two-year joint narcotics investigation by APD, the commonwealth attorney’s office and the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, are part of a larger local effort to target trafficking networks, which, when broken apart, have a ripple effect within the regional and national drug markets.

Kochis said police have been successful with targeting organized drug crime organizations under the federal racketeering code section. Even if the organization isn’t based in Alexandria, police and the commonwealth’s attorney have been able to pursue them if their web extends to the city.

“If your money touches Alexandria, if your drugs touch Alexandria or you touch Alexandria, it doesn’t matter where you live or reside — we can come and get you,” Kochis said.

The approach has adapted as the way drugs are sold has changed, Kochis said. In decades past, when mobile communication didn’t exist, more drug deals happened face-to-face and police had no choice but to crack down on those who sold drugs on the street.

“Back in the 80s, before I came on and before cell phones, there were a lot more open air drug markets where dealing would just be on the street, hand-to-hand transactions, stuff like that. Now, we still see that, but not as much. In the City of Alexandria, there’s still a strong street level narcotics presence, but it will primarily work off of cell phones,” Kochis said.

Though technology has changed, Kochis said some aspects of trying to make drug arrests haven’t. Police still work their way up from user to dealer to supplier, but the route to get to the end result has changed.

“Now we have all kinds of different forms of technology and resources that going after an individual user on the street isn’t as necessary as it was back then,” Kochis said. “There’s still a place for it, and I think that’s where I kind of see a void. With street level narcotics comes car break-ins and other types of quality of life crimes. But we focus on identifying drug trafficking and investigating them.”

When it comes to prosecuting drug-related crimes, Porter said the focus has also widened.

Bryan Porter poses in front of the Alexandria Courthouse. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

Considering the source

Porter’s office has also been working, in conjunction with the state attorney general’s office, to combat those who are part of drug trafficking networks.

Porter said there’s a separation between those who deal to afford their addiction and those who feed others’ addictions.

“You have people that are addicted, selling small amounts to keep their addiction alive so they can have money to buy, but you also have some very organized heroin distribution networks. We’ve been working with the attorney general’s office, focus[ing] on trying to attack the higher levels of drug distribution networks, while trying to show some compassion for people that are dealing with addiction,” Porter said.

Porter said those who are arrested with small amounts of drugs rarely serve extended time in jail.

“The reality of it is that people that are charged with simple possession really do not do much, if any, jail time. They never go to prison, in my experience, over the past couple of years,” Porter said.

Instead of working to put users behind bars, Porter said those in the justice system are emphasizing rehabilitation. Porter used the example of a 251 disposition, which allows those who have been charged with possession of heroin to work toward getting through the process without a black mark on his or her record.

“What we’re trying to focus on is treatment options,” Porter said. “For example, if you get charged with possession of heroin the first time, you don’t have any drug convictions on your record, there’s actually a state code that allows you to get through that process without a conviction on your record … They have to do probation, stay drugfree, do some community service, pay court costs.”

Porter said, through collaborating with multiple jurisdictions, the state attorney general and the Virginia State Police, they’ve also been able to go after – and, at times, effectively take down – complex and far-reaching drug trafficking networks.

“It’s kind of innovative. We’re attacking higher up … It’s like a pyramid. If you cut if off up here, you’re [taking] all the people down at the base [down at the same time],” Porter said. “So we’re really trying to do both – realize that people with addiction problems don’t really need lengthy jail sentences or prison sentences because they’re in the thralls really of what is a public health, mental health disease.”

Porter said users with crippling addictions are on a different plane than those who are fueling the growing opioid problem.

“On the other hand, people that are dealing, making huge amounts of money, illegal money off people’s addictions have to be dealt with sternly,” Porter said. “There’s a whole other level of violence that goes along with drug distribution networks because they’re making huge amounts of illegal cash. They can’t call the police department to protect them. You’ve got a lot of self-help with guns and violence, robberies, that kind of stuff going on. You’ve got both levels of it and we’re trying here in Alexandria to do both things.”

Porter, Kochis and others say there’s another potential innovative approach that could give certain opioid users a shot at rehabilitation.

Reconsidering justice

Gene Rossi, a former prosecutor for the United States Justice Department who spent four years prosecuting organized crime drug enforcement task force cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, is in favor of second chances.

The retired prosecutor, who also ran for lieutenant governor before Justin Fairfax won the Democratic nomination in June, is on the board of Friends of Guest House, an Alexandria nonprofit that works to rehabilitate women who have served time in jail for nonviolent crimes.

He’s seen, firsthand, how the approach to prosecuting drug-related crimes has shifted over the years.

“I sense in the last couple years, especially in the last year, that America is now approaching the moment where we are taking an aggressive, but innovative approach to crime,” Rossi said.

“Fifteen, 20 years ago, most prosecutors would have paid little attention, if any, to the addiction of a defendant … Addiction was not part of the equation in the 80s and 90s for sentencing people. Now judges and prosecutors, especially defense attorneys, are realizing that if you don’t treat the addiction, which has caused, in part, their crimes, then they’re going to get out and they’re going to be criminals again.”

“… I now see among law enforcement, the DOJ and the state attorney generals that we have to take a different approach to this. We can’t just put people away and throw away the key,” Rossi said.

Many jurisdictions around the country have introduced drug courts as one possible solution to the growing problem of drug-related crime. Drug courts work to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders who have agreed to certain terms. As part of undergoing drug court, individuals participate in treatment while being monitored closely for the minimum term of one year. The program usually requires monthly visits to a judge, regular and random drug testing and sanctions if they do not meet obligations.

Several Northern Virginia jurisdictions have already established drug courts, including neighboring Arlington Circuit Court.

Kochis is one of the city officials leading the effort to bring a drug court to Alexandria. He and others are putting together a steering committee, which would include representatives from multiple organizations within city government, to explore the possibility. The steering committee would generate a drug court application that would, in turn, have to be approved by the state.

Kochis said if a drug court is instituted in Alexandria, it would be tailored
to the city’s needs.

“Each jurisdiction that has a drug court, they’re unique to that community’s needs, so we’re going to start small and kind of work out all the kinks in it,” Kochis said.

Porter said the hope is to begin the drug court sometime next year. He said, if resources are allocated for the court, it would be beneficial for users who might not have a pathway to rehabilitation otherwise.

“Heroin and most of these opiates are really, really difficult to get off of and most people need help,” Porter said. “A drug court requires buy-in from the person who is charged.
It’s not something where you force someone to do the program and because it’s so intensive they have to actually want to go through it.”

“The goal is not jail time. It’s to actually intervene and get this person off the street that’s causing the problem.”

As with most new programs, a drug court would take funding, staff and resources.
Funding, in fact, is the most significant reason why Alexandria does not yet have a drug court.

“It’s a very time-consuming and therefore resource-consuming process. It really boils down to funding,” Porter said. “… We have some reasonable goals to limit it to five to 10 people in the first year in an effort to see how much time and how much energy and how much money it consumes. The next step, now that we have buy-in from my office, is for the probation office and the police department to expand that net to other partners that we would need to be part of the process. Hopefully we’ll have an actual written proposal in something like the next 90 days.”

Kochis and Porter don’t believe a drug court in Alexandria would be a silver bullet but, rather, yet another resource to tackle a growing opioid problem that hasn’t shown signs of slowing.

“… I have seen a lot of success in the reports that I’ve looked at and I just think there’s an opportunity there,” Kochis said. “Again, we’re going to start small and make sure what we put together actually works. But I’m excited about it. I’m very optimistic. And it’s moving in the right direction.”

“It usually takes people a few years of struggling with it before they actually, really are committed to self-improvement, really getting out of that cycle,” Porter said. “It really has to be ‘I’m fed up with this, I can’t live like this anymore. I have to change my life. Once we reach that point, that’s when we see impressive gains.’”

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 Port City Brewing Co. to partner with Tall Ship Providence Foundation Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:51:00 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com Port City Brewing Co. announced that it’s partnering with the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is raising funds to bring tall ship The Providence to the Alexandria waterfront permanently, the longtime local brewery announced in a news release. As part of the partnership, Port City is giving one dollar from […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

Port City Brewing Co. announced that it’s partnering with the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, which is raising funds to bring tall ship The Providence to the Alexandria waterfront permanently, the longtime local brewery announced in a news release.

As part of the partnership, Port City is giving one dollar from every pint of beer sold at its tasting room on Wheeler Avenue to the initiative until its fundraising goal is met, starting on Jan. 1. 

Port City Brewing Co. founder Bill Butcher said the tall ship would be beneficial for the city for years to come.

“Our hometown has a long history as an important port city, so we’re excited to be part of this initiative to bring that history to life … We want our customers to have a stake in this project. The Providence will be an asset for the city and the people of Alexandria for years to come,” Butcher said in the release.

The Tall Ship Providence Foundation kicked off efforts to bring The Providence, a 110-foot, single mast tall ship, to Alexandria in September. The group aims to bring the ship to the city’s Waterfront Park by the spring of 2019. The intention is for the ship to serve as a tourist attraction, a private event venue and a floating classroom for the Alexandria Seaport Foundation.

The ship is a full-sized replica of colonial era ship the U.S.S. Providence, which was commissioned into the newly created Navy of the Continental Congress in January 1775 and which also served as the first command of John Paul Jones. The ship was used for a similar purpose as the Tall Ship Providence Foundation proposes when it was based in Rhode Island. 

 

 

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 Police investigating shooting on upper Queen Street Tue, 12 Dec 2017 19:49:36 +0000
By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com The investigation into a shooting that occurred in the 1000 block of Queen Street on Monday night is still ongoing, according to the Alexandria Police Department. Police responded to a report of gunshots in the area at 7:35 p.m. on Monday. Police first reported the incident as a felonious assault […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

The investigation into a shooting that occurred in the 1000 block of Queen Street on Monday night is still ongoing, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

Police responded to a report of gunshots in the area at 7:35 p.m. on Monday. Police first reported the incident as a felonious assault at 8:10 p.m. on Monday.

APD spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said officers located a 23-year-old male suffering from an injury to the upper body at the scene. The unnamed victim was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police say one of the two suspects was known to the victim.

Rebecca Edwards said she first heard shots at around 7:30 at her neighborhood home, which fronts on Queen Street.

“It was so loud and so rapid fire my kids and I thought someone was shooting at the house,” Edwards said. “It sounded like it was right outside my door.” 

Edwards said the gunshots seemed to go on for five to six seconds. 

Police haven’t apprehended the two suspects at this time and no arrests have been made. Nosal said the investigation is active.

This is a developing story. This post will be updated as more information becomes available. 

 

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 New Alexandria Chamber board chair announced Mon, 11 Dec 2017 22:08:39 +0000
The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce has announced the incoming chair of its board of directors. The Chamber announced at its annual meeting on Dec. 5 that Virginia “Gin” Kinneman will serve as chair in 2018. Kinneman is the founder and owner of Kinneman Insurance, which has offices in Alexandria and McLean and has been in […]Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce has announced the incoming chair of its board of directors.

The Chamber announced at its annual meeting on Dec. 5 that Virginia “Gin” Kinneman will serve as chair in 2018.

Kinneman is the founder and owner of Kinneman Insurance, which has offices in Alexandria and McLean and has been in operation for 20 years. She has been involved in the Chamber’s inner workings for multiple years, acting as leader of the Alexandria Chamber’s Professional Women’s Network and the Chamber’s Membership Committee. 

She will be officially welcomed as the incoming chair on Jan. 18 at the Chamber’s Chairman’s Reception, which will be held at Alexandria Renew Enterprises. 

The Chamber’s annual meeting also featured a keynote speech from prominent Old Town developers Asana Partners, which purchased 21 storefronts in Old Town over the past year.

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