Archive for October, 2012

Board of County Supervisors Questions ICE Decision to Allow 287(g) Program to Expire at End of Year

After months of working with local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to finalize a three-year renewal of the 287(g) program with Prince William County, Va., the Board of County Supervisors (the Board) was given notice by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that ICE will only extend the program through Dec. 31, 2012. Given the clear data-driven results highlighting the benefits to public safety, the Board insists upon the immediate three-year extension of the 287(g) program as originally supported by ICE.

The 287(g) program is a partnership with ICE and local law enforcement where select personnel from the Adult Detention Center, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are specially trained by ICE to screen and investigate whether those committing crimes are legally residing in the community. The 287(g) program is a key element to the County’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Policy, which has been recognized as a model program to identify and report criminal illegal immigrants without engaging in racial profiling.

According to the study conducted by the University of Virginia (UVA), Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and James Madison University (JMU) study, “the [Prince William County Illegal Immigration Enforcement] policy in its current form (mandating immigration checks only for arrestees) appears to be a reasonable way of targeting illegal immigrants who are serious offenders – a policy goal on which there is broad agreement” (p. xv). The study further states that the policy has had a positive impact on reducing certain types of crime; “There was a sharp decline in hit-and-run accidents…. We conclude that this change is a direct result of the policy and the departure of illegal immigrants,” (p. 156). Without the 287(g) program in place, the ability to investigate and detain illegal immigrants who commit crime will be diminished.

To date, more than 5,000 criminals arrested in Prince William County have been found to be here illegally and detained for ICE processing through the 287(g) program. ICE is defending its move to eliminate the successful 287(g) program by citing Secure Communities as an effective alternative. However, Secure Communities is not as robust in determining legal status and does not allow local jurisdictions to issue detainers on those illegal immigrants who commit crimes. In Prince William County alone, 60 percent of those identified as illegal immigrants through the 287(g) program were not identified through Secure Communities.

Prince William County filed a law suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information on the action taken for those turned over to ICE since 2007. That FOIA request is still pending, and to date, the federal government has not released the requested information.

Winter Shelter Now Open

The Prince William County Government Winter Shelter, operated by the Department of Social Services, is now open. Typically, the winter shelter opens November 1, however Social Services decided to open the shelter on October 30 due to the expected cold weather.

The shelter is located at 14730 Potomac Mills Road, in Woodbridge and operates overnight seven days a week from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. until March 31, 2013. The shelter is for single individuals only and is run on a first-come, first-served basis; however, single women may be referred to an overflow program. The maximum capacity of the Winter Shelter is 50 people, which includes staff members. Winter Shelter provided services are meals, beds, showers and referrals for additional resources.

During daytime hours Monday-Saturday at the winter shelter facility, the Department of Social Services partners with the Cooperative Council of Ministries to provide a “Drop-In Center” for homeless individuals to receive mental health referrals, GED classes and employment assistance from area churches, homeless service providers and individuals. 

Police Department Earns 2012 IACP/Sprint Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award

The Prince William County Police Department was recently awarded the Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference in San Diego. The annual award is bestowed for “excellence in initiation, implementation, and using research to improve police operations and public safety.” The goal of the IACP and Sprint Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award is to promote the value and sustainability of effective research, in particular research partnerships among law enforcement agencies and university based researchers.

The Police Department was awarded the bronze award of excellence for its role in the coordination of the “Evaluation Study of Prince William County Illegal Immigration Enforcement Policy.” The immigration enforcement policy, implemented in 2008, requires county police officers to conduct an immigration inquiry for all persons actually placed under physical arrest.

At the outset, a study of the policy’s outcomes was requested by the Board of County Supervisors. The Police Department, which funded the study, selected sociologist Thomas M. Guterbock – director of the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service – to head up the research team. Others on the team were: University of Virginia professors Milton Vickerman and Karen Walker; James Madison University; professor Timothy Carter; and Christopher Koper and Bruce Taylor, researchers at the Police Executive Research Forum.

Each year since 2008 Sprint and the IACP have sponsored the Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award Program, to honor effective research partnerships among law enforcement agencies and criminal justice researchers. The International Association of Chiefs of Police, founded in 1893, today is made up of 20,000 police leaders from 100 countries. Its Research Advisory Committee includes law enforcement practitioners and academic researchers, with a mission of bridging the gap between research and policy. The award is given to a law enforcement agency, with recognition that a team approach with academic researchers allowed for the project’s success.

County Expands Absentee Voting Locations

There are many reasons you may need to cast your vote before Election Day:  you will be out of the county on Election Day, you commute and work long hours, or you have an illness or condition that makes it difficult to vote at the polls. There are more than a dozen acceptable qualifications to vote absentee, and Prince William County offers several opportunities to cast your vote – including a new location for in-person absentee voting this year. Get all the details at www.pwcgov.org/absentee.

The Registrar’s Office on Lee Avenue, and the DMV on Caton Hill Road are regular locations for in-person Absentee voting. Starting Saturday, October 20, voters can vote at the Haymarket Town Hall, and a new location this year – the James. J. McCoart Administration Building, just off Prince William Parkway.

Absentee Voting by Mail: The deadline to request a ballot is 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day (October 30). To request an Absentee Ballot be mailed to you, fill out an Absentee Ballot Application, and mail it, fax it or even scan it in and send it in electronically (forms cannot be submitted online because a signature is required). Or you may fill out the form at one of the Registrar’s offices. Applications are also available at County government centers and libraries. Then mail back the ballot to vote.

The registrar would like to assure everyone who votes absentee that all absentee ballots, those sent by mail and those cast in-person, are counted on Election Day in Virginia.

Police Department Earns 2012 SHIELD Award from the Anti-Defamation League

The Prince William County Police Department was recognized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The organization – one of the nation’s oldest civil rights and human relations organizations – honored “law enforcement heroes who have protected our nation and communities from hate crimes and terrorist threats” at a ceremony held on September 24, 2012.

The Police Department, through its membership on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), received a 2012 ADL SHIELD Award. The award was for the work of the JTTF in the investigation and subsequent arrest of the person responsible for a series of shootings in Northern Virginia in the fall of 2010. The targets of these shootings included the National Museum of the Marine Corps (two incidents), U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard recruiting centers, and the Pentagon.

The ADL created the award in 2010 to annually recognize law enforcement for significant contributions toward protecting the American people from hate groups, hate crimes, extremism and terrorism.

The award’s name reflects law enforcement’s role as protectors, according to the ADL, and is an acronym for the core values of the profession: Service, Honor, Integrity, Excellence, Leadership and Dedication.

She said award recipients were carefully chosen by a selection committee of 20 law enforcement executives, including chiefs of police and other top law enforcement officials, from metropolitan, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, DC.

Nine Children to be Honored for “Making the Right Call”

Nine boys and girls will be honored by the Prince William County Office of Public Safety Communications during a “Make the Right Call” presentation.  The children, who were between the ages of 5 and 15 at the time of the incidents, all knew to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, they all remained calm throughout events, and all are credited with helping out during medical emergencies.

  • Tamia Martin called 9-1-1 in August 2012 and told the call taker that an adult family member was having a baby. Tamia, 14, remained calm and listened to the instructions of the emergency medical dispatchers. She did a great job and helped clear the newborn’s mouth and nose.
  • Janiyah Lard called 9-1-1 in March 2012 and told the call taker that her 10-year-old friend had been struck by a car. Janiyah, 10, handled herself extremely well for her age, giving the emergency medical dispatcher all the information as she answered questions about her friend until an adult could come on the scene and take over. This impressed the 9-1-1 call taker who nominated her.
  • Kayla Chirino and Jasmin Mendez called 9-1-1 in June 2012 because an adult family member was having trouble breathing. The sisters, ages 10 and 12, respectively, did a great job describing their car and where it was stopped (they had been running errands). The girls followed all of the pre-arrival instructions given to them by the emergency medical dispatcher and, when they heard the sirens, they flagged down the responding units and directed them to their car.
  • David Badir called 9-1-1 in November 2011 and reported that an adult family member was having difficulty speaking, breathing, and getting out of bed. David, five, listened to instructions from the emergency medical dispatchers and opened the door to let the units in. The fact that this five-year-old remained calm and communicated clearly impressed the 9-1-1 call takers who nominated him.
  • Jocelyn Bonilla called 9-1-1 in July 2012 to report that a baby was injured. Jocelyn, nine, had to translate for her household and it turned out that a pregnant adult needed assistance. She did everything that was asked of her by emergency medical dispatchers.
  • Dominick Davis called 9-1-1 in April 2012 to report that a juvenile family member was not breathing. Dominick, 10, remained calm and provided all information that the call taker needed. The young child is doing well and is home thanks to Dominick’s quick thinking, according to the call taker who nominated him.
  • Robert Hagwood called 9-1-1 in December 2011 to report that an adult family member was behaving strangely. Robert, 15, tried to help the individual raise their blood sugar level but was unable to. He followed all the pre-arrival instructions and, thanks to his quick action at recognizing the adult’s symptoms was able to help that individual avoid having to go to the hospital and prevent the condition from turning into a life-threatening one, according to the call taker who nominated him.
  • Genesis Boykin called 9-1-1 in November 2011 to report that an adult family member was dizzy and having difficulty speaking. Genesis, eight, was able to provide all the required information and listened to pre-arrival instructions until units arrived.

The “Make the Right Call program” shows the importance of knowing how to properly use 9-1-1 when emergency help is needed.  For more information, please contact Pam Mollenauer at (703)792-5540.

Need Help Heating Your Home?

Applications for Fuel Assistance through the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Energy Assistance Program are being accepted Tuesday, October 9, 2012 through Friday, November 9, 2012. Families and individuals must apply through their local Department of Social Services. For Prince William County residents, call the Department of Social Services at (703)792-7500, or pick up an application at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building (Woodbridge) or the Sudley North Government Center (Manassas) DSS offices.

Fuel Assistance is a supplemental program intended to assist low-income households in meeting their home heating energy needs. The Energy Assistance Program is funded by the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant, which provides money to states to help low-income households, the elderly and disabled cope with the financial strain of high heating bills. To be eligible for Fuel Assistance, applicants must qualify based upon their income and household size.

For more information on the Energy Assistance Program, visit the DSS website: www.pwcgov.org/socialservices or www.commonhelp.virginia.gov, or call Prince William County Department of Social Services at (703)792-7500.