A week after a 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in a public parking garage in Ballston, it remains unclear what security measures Arlington County has considered for the site.
Since the attack, the county's Police Department and Department of Environmental Services have only answered questions about the processes in place that govern those security and safety measures.
Arlington County owns and operates the 2,800-space garage at 655 N. Glebe Road, which is attached to Ballston Common Mall and the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The county Department of Environmental Services, or DES, estimates it sees about 2,000 cars daily.
No security cameras are inside the garage. Cameras are stationed outside of the entrance/exit for vehicles.
DES consults with the Arlington County Police Department over security and safety matters. Two police personnel are responsible for writing regular “crime prevention through environmental design” reports, which provide recommendations for moving forward.
“We meet monthly with the police to talk about security, and the garage is one of the things we talk about,” said Wayne Wentz, the DES Transportation, Engineering and Operations Bureau chief.
“I'm the garage operator in this regard. In the bigger context, I am not a security expert. That's why I use security experts. If I were a private entrepreneur, I would hire a consultant. In this case, we have the police department.”
The last safety and security report on the garage was done in May, police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said. He refused to release that report to Patch, saying that request should be handled by DES. The Department of Environmental Services was unable to furnish a copy of the report to Patch by 7 p.m. Thursday.
Further, Sternbeck would not say what recommendations were in the report. He said the next scheduled report was due in December or January.
The county works toward crime prevention through environmental design with all of its facilities.
“It basically promotes design principals that encourage safe behavior and reduce the opportunity for crimes to occur,” Sternbeck said. “We go in there, we look at everything from vegetation, security, walls, lighting, the policies, and provide (the county) with a comprehensive report for safety and security and make recommendations to them — whether it's physical features, activities, a way to maximize visibility, maintenance…
“We're basically the consultants. We provide them the report on our findings. From there, it's their decision to move forward with our recommendations."
In the past year, 18 crimes were reported at the garage, Sternbeck said. Of those, 15 were property crimes — larceny from a vehicle, for instance. The others included urinating in public in August, a daytime fight in January and this month’s sexual assault.
Generally, Sternbeck said, “Cameras are going to be one of the many things that would help. That's why we do this (report). Cameras are always going to help in any way, shape or form. It's one of many ways we can use safety and security devices in the garage.”
In separate interviews, Wentz and Sternbeck said the county generally had a policy of using cameras for crime investigation — not crime prevention.
Security personnel under contract patrol the garage at all times, though Wentz would not say how many. No county employees work in the garage, he said.
Multiple emergency push-buttons are installed on each level of the garage, Wentz said.
When the Arlington County Board voted to raise the rates at the Ballston parking garage in February, it was only able to do so after getting the approval of various stakeholders, including the mall operator.
Stakeholder approval isn’t necessary for operational matters, such as the installation of cameras, Wentz said.