Fairfax County’s FY2015 proposed budget brings additional scrutiny to some well-known county departments, including public safety, which is a core mission for local governments. Fairfax County’s crime rate is among the lowest in the nation for jurisdictions of our size. The average time for police response to a Top Priority 911 call, from dispatch to arrival on scene, is less than five minutes. Including Animal Control officers, there are 1,366 sworn officers, augmented by 354 civilian administrative positions. In addition to district station patrols, highly specialized police units include Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Motors, Helicopter, K9, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
Considering Fairfax County’s very low crime rate, most residents, fortunately, observe police officers only on patrol or at a neighborhood community event. Sometimes, though, the interaction is not so benign, and traffic stops result in more than just a warning. Recent statistics from the Mason Station remind us that police officers always are on patrol, protecting the community from potential tragedies, such as drunk driving.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a violation meriting arrest, and Mason Station police officers won bragging rights for their enforcement efforts in December. The SAFE December numbers report that 109 DWI arrests were made by officers from the Mason Station, an increase from 93 arrests the previous December. This is the second year in a row that Mason Station has won SAFE December. As might be expected during the holiday party season, most of the arrests were made by the midnight squads. One Mason Station officer, PFC Hyun Chang, led the station and the department with 12 arrests. The next closest station, Mount Vernon, had a total of 50 DWI arrests for the same period.
Mason Station officers are keenly aware of the dangers of drunk driving, as one of their colleagues, PFC Long Dinh, was critically injured by a drunk driver in February of 2013. You may remember reading about that horrific accident, when PFC Dinh’s marked cruiser was hit head-on by a vehicle speeding the wrong way, at night, on Little River Turnpike crossing the Beltway. The drunk driver was killed, and PFC Dinh still is recovering from extensive injuries.
The SAFE December program aims to increase public awareness about the dangers of impaired driving, as well as getting drunk drivers off the road. Officers from all eight stations competed for a $200 gift card. In addition to DWI arrests, the SAFE December program yielded numerous felony arrests, narcotics arrests, vehicle pursuits, and firearms recovery. Captain David Smith, commander of the Mason Station, said that the successful campaign was “due to the team effort and attitude of officers at the station.”
That team effort and attitude pervades much of what police officers do every day in performance of their sworn duties. Well-trained and well-equipped, Fairfax County police officers responded to nearly 460,000 calls for service in 2013, and made slightly more than 50,000 criminal arrests. The police department’s budget is just 4.8 percent of the total proposed county budget, a bargain for all taxpayers of Fairfax County.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.