Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Doorbell cameras were a novelty when first introduced, but they have become the eyes of many neighborhoods in the past decade. Videos posted on NextDoor and other platforms capture activities, sometimes amusing but often nefarious, all hours of the day and night. Visitors, delivery persons, and the occasional animal, wild or domestic, are standard fare. A constituent once sent me a doorbell recording of a one-car accident – the driver apparently lost control and climbed the curb — to demonstrate her complaint about speeding in the neighborhood. Also captured are “porch pirates” and midnight visitors bent on motor vehicle-related thefts – valuables inside the car, motor vehicle parts, or the vehicle itself. It doesn’t take long for a thief to check the car door handle and gain easy entry of an unlocked vehicle.

In Fairfax County, one of the safest counties of its size in the nation, theft of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts, especially catalytic converters, has skyrocketed in the first few months of 2022. Chief Kevin Davis has created a full-time auto theft squad to focus exclusively on auto theft crews, trends, and patterns. Catalytic converter thefts have increased three-fold, and police officers told me that it takes less than two minutes for a crew (usually one guy with the tools and another as look-out) to cut out the part and move on to the next opportunity. The police department reports that Toyota Prius vehicles manufactured between 2004 and 2009 make up most of the national and local catalytic converter crime surge. The precious metals – platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold — in these particular catalytic converters now sell for more than $1000 on the black market. Quite a handsome take for a night’s work!

Some simple habits can help prevent you and your vehicles from becoming a crime statistic. Always lock your vehicle, in your driveway, in front of your house, or for a quick stop at a convenience store. Thieves are on the lookout for opportunities; don’t make it easy for them! I make it a practice to lock my car again after I’ve unloaded the shopping cart. That walk to return the cart to the corral seems short but might be just enough time for a thief to take groceries, valuables, or your car! Although exercise enthusiasts recommend parking far from the store to get in your extra steps, those far spaces can provide cover for thieves to steal parts, especially those valuable catalytic converters.

Chief Davis also announced Command Staff personnel promotions, and congratulations are in order to Jane Burns, who was promoted to Captain. Mason District residents may remember Captain Burns from her service as Assistant Commander at the Mason Police Station. Subsequently, she was assistant director at the Fairfax County Police Academy. Her new assignment will be at headquarters. So proud of you, Jane!

If you’ve seen little blue and silver pinwheels fluttering in the breeze at county buildings, you know that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Families and communities can work together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect through collaboration, prevention services, and support. More information is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.childwelfare.gov.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.