ARLINGTON, Va. – The past year was a good one for Arlington County, with the jurisdiction boasting no homicides in all of 2011 and the lowest unemployment rate in the state.
Chris Zimmerman, the county’s outgoing board chairman, said Monday during the board’s annual reorganization meeting that there’s a certain amount of randomness to homicide, so he doesn’t want to overemphasize that there were no murders in the county in 2011.
But the clean slate continues a downward trend in the county and nationwide: In 2010, there was only one homicide in the county. There were four in 2008.
Zimmerman says community policing, which put more cops on the street, and a good local economy have helped keep crime down in general. Arlington’s jobless rate for October was 3.4 percent.
“We have the lowest unemployment in the whole Washington metropolitan area, the lowest unemployment in the state,” he says. “That clearly is a factor.”
Zimmerman also says some of the public safety decisions made by county officials in the last few years have helped keep crime down.
At Monday’s meeting, the board continued its tradition of reorganizing and rotating its chair each year. Mary Hynes was elected chair for 2012, and Walter Tejada was elected to serve as vice-chair.
In his address to the board after being made vice-chair, Tejada outlined what he called a 2012 “agriculture initiative” for the 26-square-mile county.
The initiative includes things like the creation of community and rooftop gardens and land exchanges, but it also could mean easing restrictions on what Tejada calls “backyard hens” — in other words, chickens.
“We need to have a conversation, if that were to happen in Arlington, how would it work,” Tejada says.
Tejada says there’s a local group called the Arlington Egg Project already collecting signatures on a petition to allow chickens in the county.
The group says current zoning requirements bar “virtually all” Arlington residents from having backyard hens. Tejada says the move would fit right in with the county’s healthy eating campaign.
“They have been doing the research and that’s what we like about Arlington,” Tejada says of the group.
In her speech to the board after being elected chair, Hynes called for more community involvement over the next year, in what she referred to as the “Arlington Way.” She urged a focus on participation, leadership and civic engagement.
The Arlington board currently has only four members, because Barbara Favola was elected to the Virginia General Assembly and will take her new job next week when the legislative session begins in Richmond.
The county is planning a special election at the end of March to fill Favola’s seat.