Police open stations in Franconia, at mall

Journal staff writer

Fairfax County police will open two satellite stations in Franconia this week to increase visibility in the two areas where police say criminal activity has increased.

The police satellite office at Edsall Garden Apartments at 6413 Edsall Road, in unit #101, will open tomorrow and the office at Macy's department store at Springfield Mall will open Friday.

The satellite office at Macy's will be the first for the department store chain. Store officials say they will open satellite offices at other Macy's stores nationwide if the one at Springfield Mall proves to be worthwhile. Macy's provided a free five-year lease of the unit to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Lt. Dorian Portee, assistant commander of the Franconia District Station, said the offices will be manned by full-time police officers.

The stations also will act as family resource centers where residents and shoppers can go to seek family services.

"We felt the need to increase our visibility in those two areas because the fear level increased," Portee said. "We want to be proactive. Our other offices have been successful with bringing a comfort level to the community."

In 1993, police opened their first Franconia satellite station at Springfield Garden Apartments at 7224 Commerce Street. Last summer, police opened a second satellite station at Williamsburg Square Shopping Center in the 9200 block of Richmond Highway, Portee said.

Mara Johnson, project manager at Gates, Hudson and Associates that oversees the Springfield Garden Apartments complex, said the satellite office that opened there as a police station slowly grew into a family services facility. That office and the new unit at Edsall Garden will be manned by Officer Abe Gelabert of the Franconia District Station.

The Springfield Garden station now helps the complex's residents not only fight crime but the ethnics among them to adjust to living in the United States. "Officer Gelabert is not there as a security guard; he's there to help residents with their problems," Johnson said. "He's there for guidance."

An impetus to open a satellite office at Edsall Garden Apartments came when a woman resident was murdered late last year.

Kathy Benli, property manager at Edsall Garden Apartments, said even though she does not consider the neighborhood dangerous, she feels fortunate to have a full-time police officer on the property.

"It's a very good idea to help our community," Benli said. "I think it makes residents more comfortable knowing that we have a police officer. It's definitely a good thing to have here and we're lucky that we're getting an office like that."