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Reitze Reiterates Promise: F.C. Police Cuts Won’t Hurt Service

Four of 33-Member F.C. City Police Department to Retire in June

policeheadshotReitzThe retirement of four seasoned veterans out of a force of 33, and major new budget constraints promises to tax the City of Falls Church Police Department to the limit this summer, but Chief Harry Reitze is convinced the department’s effectiveness will not be diminished.

 

Four of 33-Member F.C. City Police Department to Retire in June

 

The retirement of four seasoned veterans out of a force of 33, and major new budget constraints promises to tax the City of Falls Church Police Department to the limit this summer, but Chief Harry Reitze is convinced the department’s effectiveness will not be diminished.

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F.C. City Police Chief Harry Reitze. (Photo: News-Press)

Reitze told the F.C. City Council just this at a work session last month, and he reiterated it in an exclusive interview with the News-Press last week.

Four veteran offices retiring are Office of Emergency Management Captain Dan Ellis after 24 and a half years, Dispatcher Carolyn Pendleton after 28 and a half years, Animal Warden Rebecca Keenan after 25 years and Administrative Assistant Carmen Nichols after nine years of service with the department.

But the demand for quality police service in Falls Church never lets up. For example, new developments have arisen regarding a spate of car thefts that occurred last month in the southeastern part of the City.

Since the auto theft cases are still under investigation, Chief Reitze couldn’t divulge details. But he said, “We have a pretty good idea of the locality of the suspects, but [the case] requires absolute secrecy at this time if we’re going to be successful.”

Four parked and locked autos were stolen from residence driveways on Tuckahoe, Villa Ridge, Van Buren and Offut Streets between the hours of late Tuesday, March 16 and before daylight on Wednesday, March 17.

Reitze said his team will continue to work with surrounding jurisdictions, involving “a possible trend in which the vehicles stolen are often Chrysler and Dodge products.”

When asked what convinced police there was a pattern in the potential suspects’ motives, Reitze couldn’t give details, but said, “People who regularly investigate auto theft and theft from autos can paint a pretty good picture of what’s going on out there.”

The City’s Crime Report also documented three stolen catalytic converters from autos in the past three weeks. That’s in addition to six larcenies from vehicles and a stolen moped from a residence on the morning of March 7.

“Auto theft and theft from auto happens everywhere in this country all the time,” Reitze told the News-Press, adding that auto theft is very low in the City compared to past incidents.

However, stolen catalytic converters may be becoming a trend. The device is located on the underside of the vehicle as part of the exhaust system and often removed within minutes. Catalytic converters are made of precious metals, one of which is platinum. Metal recyclers can extract the metals, which can be resold for thousands of dollars an ounce.

And it’s not just the City that’s being targeted.

The Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) issued an alert last January that there had been an increase in the theft of the converters. The county larcenies occurred during daytime and nighttime hours, mostly during the work week at commuter lots and neighborhoods.

An FCPD statement said, “Toyotas have frequently been targeted, although not exclusively” and urged residents to “be aware of suspicious activity during the course of their normal business day.”

Reitze likewise echoed the County’s authorities’ concerns, warning that “people who are committing this kind of crime are not just driving up the road once looking for their next hit.”

They’ve probably driven by and walked down the road a few times, he said. He urges residents to write down the tag number of any suspicious vehicle they see and the description of any persons.

“The last thing for residents to remember is, don’t feel bad about calling us. Don’t think you’re upsetting us. That’s what we’re here for. We get upset if you don’t call us,” said Reitze.

Of the four veterans leaving, Keenan was the most forthcoming to the News-Press in comments about her service as the animal warden.

In the 1980s, she said, the animal warden was considered the dog catcher, and little training was provided.

“I drove an old [beat-up] truck with no police radio or air conditioning,” said Keenan, who added “the least of what [she does] is catch dogs.”

Her days are mostly spent dealing with wildlife issues, mediating neighborhood disagreements, handling animal bites and quarantines, rabies exposures and dangerous dogs, not to mention all the state-mandated reporting and administrative and emergency-planning duties that go along with the job.

Keenan’s career has had both upsides and downsides. But unlike most full-time careers, the worst times included being threatened, her tires flattened and her windshield smashed on her police cruiser.

“But I was also lucky enough to work for an agency that recognized the need for my position, was always supportive and provided me the training and equipment that was necessary to handle the issues that arose,” she said.

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F.C. City Police Animal Warden Rebecca Keenan. (Courtesy Photo)

Keenan’s most memorable animal encounters were “a six-point buck that destroyed two apartments, a tiger cub which had been stolen and hidden at the old Whittier Intermediate School; an apartment full of snakes, iguanas and a baby alligator; a house with 43 cats; patrolling the City at night in search of elusive coyotes and a boa constrictor living in the wall at a local apartment complex.”

She also recalled sleeping on the floor of her office for two nights when Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003.

Most of all, Keenan said she will remember “all the dedicated City employees, especially in the police department, who have helped and encouraged me along the way and have been great friends and co-workers.”

All four retiring police will serve until June 30 – with the new fiscal year starting on July 1, which will also include more budget cuts – and will present Chief Reitze with his greatest challenge.

He said a lot of expertise will be walking out the door and it’s going to be felt in many of areas by his staff.

“When you add up the amount of years and service these people have given, this is almost akin to a disaster happening,” Reitze added.

He said the public should be reassured that they “will not be less protected or served.”

Reitze went on to say people are being moved around within operational units of the department to make sure they are staffed properly until the department regains the positions it needs.

He intends to hire an officer and a dispatcher by July 1, both of whom may need to attend academies in addition to a 12-week field training program.

“Both positions are enormously complicated and require absolute credibility of the individual we hire. It’s different than a public information position, which can normally be filled in 30 days,” said Reitze, who added the department’s just completed its first talent search after the same amount of time.

However, despite the lengthy process that will inevitably call for the public’s patience, he stood by his statement to that the public will see “no change at all.”

“I am not being facetious or short-sighting the public,” said Reitze. “It will be transparent, and I promise them they will receive the same excellent service from our officers they’ve had before and they will.”

 

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