In a continuous commitment to education and transparency, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office hosted its second set of quarterly station meetings of the year in late April and early May. Sheriff Mike Chapman and station command updated the public on the status of crime and took questions.
“Our crime rate is staying pretty low,” Chapman said. “We have the lowest crime rate in the entire national capital region.”
Although some residents were concerned about gang activity, Chapman said gang activity was stable and had not increased. Another large concern to the public was the opioid epidemic. Station presentations went through the 2016 opioid overdose statistics.
In 2016, Eastern Loudoun had 24 heroin overdoses, Ashburn had 13, Dulles South had 11 and Western Loudoun, 13. Of the 61 heroin overdoses, 17 were fatal. Chapman said LCSO has focused on enforcement, education and prevention. The LCSO has also partnered with federal and local organizations such as Loudoun County Mental Health and Loudoun County Public Schools to enhance its efforts.
LCSO equips most deputies with NARCAN which can revive someone suffering from a suspected opioid overdose. In 2016, 10 people were saved with NARCAN. By the end of 2017, every patrol deputy will carry NARCAN. Now, the problem is that deputies are seeing repeat offenders, Chapman said.
“The opioids right now are being cut with fentanyl. There’s also a new substance out there called carfentanil, which is an animal tranquilizer, and they’re mixing this in with the heroin to upgrade it and what’s happening is that people are taking it and dying,” he said.
In efforts to aid prevention, LCSO hosted the nationally touring DEA Museum in Loudoun, held educational forums and has brought speakers, those who were former abusers, to help inform the community. However, Chapman said that many won’t take the drug forums seriously until it directly impacts someone they know, and by then, it’s too late.
“We’re seeing some major, major problems here as a result of what’s going on in the drug world and the lack of seriousness and it’s impacting us here in Loudoun and impacting people nation-wide,” Chapman said. “And we need to get the word out… this is killing people and if you know anything, hear anything, see anything or you can influence anybody when it comes to this, let them know.”
All LCSO stations also have drug take-back boxes available to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday, University Station Capt. Marc Caminiti said. Because opioid addiction often begins with prescription drugs left over by family members prior injuries or surgeries, Chapman encouraged residents to bring old prescription drugs and drugs residents no longer need. This will also prevent teenagers from developing addictions through raiding medicine cabinets, he said.
The quarterly presentations also addressed an increase in scams and identity theft. Officials said there has been an increase in intimidation and extortion scams. Scammers have used tactics like:
- Pretending to be a relative in a crisis such as posing as a daughter that’s been kidnapped
- A caller saying they are with the IRS and stating the resident needs to pay fines for back taxes owed and will be arrested if they don’t pay
- Claiming they’re with local law enforcement and asking for court payments under threat of arrest
- Calling about late payments and saying there’s a warrant out for the resident
Many of these scams ask for payment via gift cards which is a red flag, officials said.
LCSO has also seen an increase in firearm and car larcenies. In many of these cases, guns and other items have been taken from unlocked cars. Officials reminded residents to keep cars and garage doors locked and remove valuables when not in the car.
County residents also learned about the free program, Childsafe, which offers locks for guns so children cannot accidentally discharge them. Having a loaded, unsecured gun that could endanger the life or seriously injure a child under 14 is a misdemeanor in Virginia, as is allowing a child under age 12 to use a gun without adult supervision.