During Wednesday night's Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, Captain Jim Baumstark — commander of the Franconia District Police Station — addressed the issue of the series of assaults that have been occurring in the Springfield area since last September.
"This guy is coming up from behind, grabbing women and running," he said. "The victims are traumatized. He obviously knows the area. The incidents are happening in the middle of the community and in the middle of public streets."
Baumstark said because of the varying descriptions of the suspect, FCPD is not sure if it's just one man committing the simple assaults. One resident asked Baumstark if he thinks the suspect intentionally struck again on the same day of last week's community meeting where more than 200 concerned citizens showed up to be updated on the investigation.
"I'm sure he did [do it on purpose]. We'll ask him when we catch him," Baumstark said.
During his presentation on neighborhood crime prevention and safety, Crime Prevention Officer Jim Reid said it has been frustrating for police to have been so close multiple times in arriving on scene when the assaults were reported. As of Wednesday evening, 23 assaults have been reported in the area. The victims have been between the ages of 15 and 49.
In last week's meeting, Reid provided these tips on personal safety:
- Plan and think ahead: "We're not talking about making you paranoid or having you stay in your house afraid to come out. Be aware of your surroundings," he said.
- Be a good witness: Try to look at the suspect's face if you can and observe and report it to the police only. Reid says do not attempt to apprehend a suspect yourself.
- Walk with confidence: Reid said criminals usually target victims who look weak or unaware of surroundings. He said walk with proper posture that says you know where you're going. Avoid texting while walking in order to pay attention to where you are.
- Use the buddy system.
- Report immediately: Call 9-1-1 or (703) 691-2131 if you see anything suspicious.
- Be cautious when carrying a weapon (firearm, mace, taser, etc.): "Any weapons that you carry can potentially be used on you."
If attacked, Reid said "create distance between yourself and the suspect. Make noise as well because criminals will want to go undetected."
Also during Wednesday's meeting, Baumstark announced that burglaries had spiked in February but have decreased since the last CAC meeting on Feb. 20. Baumstark said this is due to CIS recently shutting down burglary rings in the area. The station hasn't seen any more airbag thefts which had become frequent according to reports discussed in January's meeting.
With it being the middle of "budget season," First Lieutenant William Jacoby — assistant commander for Franconia District Police Station — also briefed residents on possible cuts the department may experience in the future, including cutting four station logistic technicians (SLT).
This is a position currently held by eight civilians — one for each district station in Fairfax County. The county will possibly have four SLTs to work all eight districts. Baumstark also said the department may have some pay cuts.
CAC members plan to speak at the budget meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. April 11.
In light of the series of assaults in Springfield, Reid also suggested women sign up for the women's self defense class this Saturday. He currently has 12 slots still open. The class is free for participants and will start at 8 a.m. at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield. To sign up for the class, contact Reid at (703) 922-8263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.