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Santa, cops bring joy across Prince William County

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Prince William police officers were out bringing joy and spreading Christmas cheer Thursday.

A very cool looking, sunglasses-wearing Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus rode with several Prince William police motorcycle units on their annual Santa Ride. They visited pediatric patients at Novant Prince William Medical Center, and the group also visited a string of elementary schools in Prince William County.

The traveling troop brought Santa and Mrs. Claus to Chick-fil-A in Bristow where they ordered lunch. While there, Santa and the officers passed out candy canes to children. Santa also asked each child what they wanted for Christmas.

Boat carrying duck hunters capsizes on Potomac River

[File Photo: Craig Bisacre]

4:20 p.m. 

Stafford County officials have turned over the investigation of the boating accident to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

That department investigated a fatal crash involving a boat that collided with a pylon in Aquia Creek earlier this year.

12:12 p.m.

Two people were safely pulled to shore after a boat capsized at the confluence of the Potomac River and Aquia Creek.

A fishing boat overturned about 11:37 a.m., sending one person into the water. Fire and rescue crews called to the scene pulled that man from the water, said Stafford Fire and Rescue Asst. Battalion Chief Mark Doyle.

Another man and a dog were still out in the water. The dog was spotted standing on the hull of the capsized boat and was pulled to safety, said Doyle. The missing man was found a short time later and was pulled to the shore.

“His condition remains unknown at this time,” said Doyle.

The men put their boat in the water about 6 a.m. for the purpose of hunting ducks.

An investigation is underway. And, according to reports, the boat has been secured and is being left in place in the water for the time being.

Noon 

One person is missing and a search is underway on Aquia Creek.

A small fishing boat, called a Jon boat, capsized about 11:37 a.m. off the shores of Stafford County. Fire and rescue crews and a Maryland State Police helicopter are now involved in the search for the missing boater, according to initial reports.

At least one person was on board the boat with a dog when it capsized. A dog was seen standing on top of the boat when rescue crews went into the water looking for the missing man, according to initial reports. The search began when one man was able to make it ashore to a residence on Canterbury Drive in Stafford, according to initial reports.

Several water rescue boats from Stafford County are involved in the search, as is a water rescue boat dispatched from Quantico Marine Corps Base, according to initial reports.

Aquia Creek pours into the Potomac River. Several people live along the banks of the creek which is also home to Aquia Landing Park.

We’ll have more on this as it develops.

Potomac Local Wants You To Know

Brown charged in series of taxi cab robberies

On Dec. 17, police found and arrested the man they said is responsible for pulling a knife on local cab drivers and stealing money from them.

Police say the suspect matched the description given in connection to the five separate incidents reported to the police.

Here’s the latest from Prince William police:  

Armed Robbery Series *ARREST – On December 17th, detectives from the Robbery identified a possible suspect involved in a series of armed robberies involving taxi cab drivers which have occurred in the Manassas area of Prince William County since December 9th.

Later that same afternoon, officers were actively patrolling the area of Ashton Ave near Sudley Manor Dr and located a man matching the description of the suspect being sought by detectives.

The man was identified as the accused and was also found to be in possession of a knife. In total, five separate incidents were reported to police and involved a similar suspect description and circumstances.

Following the investigation, the accused was connected to this robbery series and was subsequently arrested without incident. Additional charges are forthcoming.

Arrested on December 17th:

Matthew Jamaal BROWN, 24, of 10891 Gambril Dr, #31 in Manassas

Charged with 3 counts of robbery

Court date: February 17, 2015 | Bond: held WITHOUT bond

 

Armed Robbery Series [Previously Released] – Between December 14th and 16th, officers have responded to the Manassas area (20109) of Prince William County to investigate armed robberies involving cab drivers. In all reported cases, a man of similar clothing and physical description displays a knife and robs the cab driver of money before fleeing on foot. The incidents have also occurred in close geographical proximately to one another along Ashton Ave. No injuries have been reported in any of the robberies. The same suspect is also believed to be responsible for an incident which was reported on December 9th. A timeline of the incidents are below.

  • December 16th at 3:21AM – Vernon St and Tower Pl in Manassas
  • December 15th at 2:57PM – 10700 block of Sudley Manor Dr in Manassas
  • December 14th at 1:11PM – Notre Dame St and Hiram Ct in Manassas
  • December 14th at 6:05PM – 16000 block of Blendia Ln and Ashton Ave in Manassas
  • December 9th at 4:53PM – Adler Ln and Coachcrest Ct in Manassas

Declining birth rate no big deal for Prince William region

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Fewer women in the U.S. are having babies.

The national birth rate declined in 2013 to 3.93 million births, continuing a six-year drop off. Women between the ages of 15 and 44 last year bore  an average of 1.86 babies, and that’s below the 2.1 average the National Center for Health Statistics said is necessary for a stable population.

Locally, the number of live births at Novant Prince William Medical Center in Manassas fluctuated over the past five years. The hospital was the only local medical center in Prince William and Stafford counties to respond to our records request. The hospital  averaged nearly 2,040.8 babies born over the past five years.

Over time, the numbers have remained steady with the exception of this year’s number, which accounts only for the first 11 months of 2014. Take a look at the numbers the hospital submitted to Potomac Local:

  • 2010=2,177
  • 2011=2,305
  • 2012=2,135
  • 2013=2,015
  • 2014 (through November) =1,572

The down economy is to blame for the decrease in the birth rate. Many millennials are trying to find work or move up at their current job, and that, for some, means putting off starting a family.

In other parts of the U.S., a declining birth rate spells trouble for city populations, as well as companies looking to find workers to fill jobs. In the Washington, D.C. area, things are a bit different. People keep moving here and that, at least for now, offsets any the effect of any population decrease.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen changes in what drives population growth in our metro area,” said Jeannette Chapman, with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

Domestic migration in the Washington area – people moving here from other places in the U.S. – has dropped off while international migration to the area has increased.

Locally, Prince William County and Manassas City has seen more cases of international migration over the past two years while Stafford County to the south has seen more cases of domestic relocation. A number of factors could play into Stafford’s case, including home prices and housing inventory, said Chapman.

The Center for Regional Analysis compares the Washington, D.C. to Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle. In Virginia, military bases have been impacted by sequestration and thousands of jobs have been lost due to federal cutbacks. 

Historically, when the economy tanks federal agencies here ramp up to find a solution to the problem, and that brings in more workers and people.

So, that declining birth rate?

“It’s not a big deal for us; that’s only part of the story,” said Chapman. “If in the longer term things continue to decline, that will change the national narrative, and that could have an effect on our economy here.”

Panhandling call leads police to tent in Woodbridge

It’s a story we first told you about on our Facebook page Tuesday afternoon. Police swarmed the area around Ashdale Plaza and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission bus terminal about 3 p.m. after an officer was assaulted, according to police.

Here’s an account from Prince William police addressing what happened:

Assault & Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer [LEO] – On December 16th at 3:20PM, a Prince William County police officer stopped a man in the median area on Dale Blvd near Gideon Dr in Woodbridge (22193) for suspected panhandling.

During the encounter, the man provided the officer with a false identity and began to flee on foot. The officer attempted to stop the man and was assaulted. The suspect continued to flee and, at one point, stopped and reengaged the officer.

The suspect assaulted the officer a second time before continuing to flee into a wooded area where officers lost sight of him. No injuries were reported. A police K-9 was used to search for the suspect. During the investigation, officers were able identity the suspect as the accused and further learned that he was actively being sought on multiple warrants.

On December 17th, officers conducted another search of the wooded area on Dale Blvd near I-95 for the accused. After an extensive search, the accused was located in a tent and arrested without further incident.

Arrested on December 17th:

Andre Solmon PATTERSON, 48, of no fixed address

Charged with 2 counts of assault & battery on a LEO, 1 count of resisting arrest, 1 count of providing a false identity to law enforcement and 1 count of panhandling

*Additional unrelated warrants also served

Court date: pending | Bond: held WITHOUT bond

Candland’s proposal to be used to craft 2016 budget

The average property tax bill in Prince William County may not increase next year as much as planned.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan from Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland that directs County Executive Melissa Peacor to develop a 2016 budget where the average property tax bill increases no more than 1.7%. That number is down from an annual projected 4% tax bill increase approved by the Board of County Supervisors last April. The average tax bill was to increase by at least 4% per year, every year under the old 5-year plan.

Peacor is expected to a budget to the Board of Supervisors next month. The board will approve the fiscal year 2016 budget in April.

Candland said a staggering economy and job losses throughout Virginia are just some of the reasons to keep taxes lower.

“Can we continue to sustain this level of spending?” asked Candland. “We need to balance the economic realities we see in the county, state, and the nation.”

While the average tax bill in Prince William is lower than neighboring Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Candland said average earned wages of Prince William County residents are 10% lower than Fairfax residents’ income.

County leaders in April passed a $989 million budget with an assessed tax rate of $1.148 of every $100 of assessed property value. New property assessments are due within the next few months, and that will give officials some idea of how much revenue will be coming into county coffers.

With last year’s tax increase, the county funded 25 new police officers, funded improvements to sports fields, and provided money for new libraries in Montclair and Gainesville.

“I did vote for the 4% last year for higher tax bill because someone told me you’re not going to get your library if you don’t vote for the tax increase,” said Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, who on Tuesday voted in favor of the lower 1.7% average tax bill budget guidance.

Supervisors Marty Nohe, John Jenkins, and Frank Principi all voted against the 1.7% budget guidance.

“We were with the school board less than a week ago, and we heard them asking for some consistency, and this does not provide that,” said Nohe.

The Board of Supervisors sets the tax rate, and the county’s public school division will receive about 57% of the next year’s budget and. It it will could be substantially less than what the school division was banking on prior to Tuesday’s vote. 

“The schools and Board of County Supervisors will have to look at budgets. The school board might have to go back and reevaluate the price tag of the new high school and not build the two swimming pools, and we might have to go back and look at the $11 million price tag to bury power lines [on Route 1 in Woodbridge] and spend that money on our schools,” said Candland.

“There will be some very critical needs that, at 1.7%, will go unmet, said Principi.

The Woodbridge District Supervisor cited the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission – operators of OmniRide commuter and OmniLink local buses – which is facing a massive budget reduction that could lead to service cuts starting in 2017. Children who need mental healthcare and substance abuse patients may also go without care, added Principi.

*This story was corrected.

Someone is robbing cabbies near Manassas

[Image: Prince William police]

[Image: Prince William police]

Police are investigating a series of robberies involving taxi cabs near Manassas. Five cabbies have been robbed since Dec. 9.

The most recent robbery was at 3:21 a.m. in the area of Vernon Street and Tower Place. On Monday, police were called to a Walmart at Manassas Mall after a cabbie was robbed nearby.

In each robbery, police said cabbies pick up a fare and are asked to drive to a certain location, but are robbed before they arrive.

Here’s more in a police press release:

Armed Robberies – On December 15th at 2:57PM, officers responded to the 10700 block of Sudley Manor Dr in Manassas (20109) to investigate a robbery. The victim, a 62 year old man of Manassas, reported to police that he was a cab driver and had picked up a fare at the Wal-Mart located in Manassas Mall. After picking up the suspect, the victim drove him to the above area. Once stopped, the suspect pulled out a knife and took an undisclosed amount of money from the victim before fleeing on foot.

Early the next morning on December 16th at 3:21AM, officers responded to the area of Vernon St and Tower Pl in Manassas (20109) to investigate another robbery involving a cab driver. The victim, a 48 year old man of Fort Royal, reported to police that he picked up a fare and drove to the above area where the suspect displayed a knife and robbed him of an undisclosed amount of money. Following the incident, the suspect fled on foot.

No injuries were reported in either incident.

A police K-9 was also used in the December 16th incident to search for the suspect. Both incidents are believed to be related to one another, as well as, two other similar robberies reported on December 14th. The suspect in all reported incidents matched similar descriptions provided by the victims in those cases.

Suspect Description:

Black male, between 20 & 25 years of age, 6’0”, 160-170lbs with short black hair

Last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans

Car deliberately set on fire in Manassas neighborhood

The Manassas Fire Marshal’s Office wants to know who burned a car parked in the city’s Georgetown South neighborhood.

The car was set ablaze about 2 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 11. It was parked in the 9200 block of Taney Road.

A police officer on patrol in the area found burning car, a 2006 Lexus LS. The officer used a fire extinguisher to prevent the fire from spreading to other vehicles, said city spokeswoman Patty Prince.

The fire was deliberately set, an investigation found. The total damage to the car is $20,000 and the vehicle is considered to be a total loss. 

No injuries were reported. 

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call  Crime Solvers of Manassas City / Manassas Park.

Harrover, Randolph say goodbye to Manassas City Council

Photo: City of Manassas
Harrover

Harrover

Steven J. Randolph came to his 651st regular meeting of the Manassas City Council on Monday night. It was the last meeting held in which he was required to be there.

Randolph and Vice Mayor Andrew Harrover said their goodbyes as both are leaving the council. Voters have already chosen Their replacements, and the new City Council members will take their seats on the dais come January.

Randolph

Randolph

Randolph spent 28 years on the council.

“I never thought I’d serve one term much less seven,” he said.

The retiring official said he was happy to have some small role in many of the changes that took place in the city during his term. The addition of the Manassas Museum, Harris Pavilion, and Metz Middle School were all “big battles.”

Other projects noted were the reopening of the city’s train station, now home to a Virginia Railway Express station, and the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory.

“Both were a home for pigeons,” said Randolph.

Harrover thanked his family for supporting him during his eight years on the Council. He also thanked his colleagues on the Council for working with him.

“There are two or three things I’ve learned over the years: You can get anything done you want to as long as you’re not worried about who gets the credit,” said Harrover.

Manassas Next,” a series of videos outlining produced to share Harrover’s plan to improve city services, was one of his biggest accomplishments while serving on the Council, he added.

Harrover spent six years as the city’s Vice Mayor.

Residents are invited to a reception honoring both retiring men beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at the Center for Arts at the Candy Factory on Battle Street.

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