By Leslie Zupan, Heidi Ford, Keil Gentry, Donna Reuss, Executive board, West Old Town Citizens Association (File photo)
To the editor:
Last month, Leon Williams was killed on Belle Pre Way, in the middle of a new mixed-use development steps from the Braddock Road Metro station. This follows the July murder of Shakkan Elliot-Tibbs just a block away. Both slayings remain unsolved.
In the latest murder, the Alexandria Police Department has released almost no details. The murder was covered by local television stations, which located and interviewed a man who said a stray bullet struck his vehicle as he drove on North Henry Street during the incident. The damaged vehicle was shown on camera.
This information has yet to be confirmed or denied by city police. If corroborated, however, this would be powerful evidence contradicting police statements to concerned citizens that all area murders involve perpetrators and victims known to each other, and that innocent bystanders have nothing to fear.
Also not disclosed is that in the same time period, an Alexandria City School Board member leaving a meeting at 11 p.m. at ACPS headquarters in the Braddock Place complex was mugged inside the Metro station and sustained injuries. But there has been no word about this from the city, WMATA, or the local press.
ACPS and city officials crowed about obtaining Braddock Place space at bargain basement rates. But rates were low due to the persistence of crime around the station. The associated lack of amenities is a factor that has driven away tenants like PBS and prospective occupants alike over the years. Retail at Braddock Place, too, has failed to flourish three decades after the station first opened in 1984.
During special use permit processes, developers and their attorneys have chided the West Old Town Citizens Association for concerns expressed regarding safety. But city officials recently confirmed that residents have expressed concerns that neighborhood buildings have insufficient security. Indeed, before the Bastille restaurant relocated to the Asher, its owners stated at a Braddock Implementation Advisory Group meeting that security issues were a major concern that emerged from a customer survey about the move.
Years of experience have taught our group to pay attention, not only to issues of height, density and architecture but also security factors, including elimination of blind spots and obstructive plantings and the installation of good lighting and security cameras. WOTCA has a consistent public record, over many years, of advocacy for residential police and community police officers in the face of budget pressures.
With two unsolved homicides, a mugging, and on October 18 the report of a commercial robbery on Pendleton Street, it is imperative that the city’s leadership address the issue of crime. If not, we can expect more violence in our community.