We Fairfax County residents host a variety of immigrants in our county. Some are legal immigrants, who wait in line for many years hoping to become American citizens. Others cross our country’s borders illegally, but may be given sanctuary when they reach Fairfax County. These illegal arrivals may be children without parents or designated guardians. They may be members of criminal gangs, such as the storied MS-13.
As a Fairfax County resident, I wanted to know more about the criminal gang element arriving in our county, particularly who were arrested and incarcerated in the Adult Detention Center under the supervision of Sheriff Stacey Kincaid. And so I contacted the Sheriff’s office six months ago to inquire about the number of MS-13 and other gang members in custody. Thus began a bizarre conversation.
Initially, I asked the Sheriff’s office the following questions:
In what form do you keep the following statistics on MS-13 gang members?
- a) # of gang members who are known to Fairfax County law enforcement (annually, showing any increase or decrease in the # over the past 5 years)
- b) # of gang members who are arrested by Fairfax County law enforcement each year (over the past 5 years)
- c) # of gang members who are subsequently turned over to ICE (over the past 5 years)
- d) # of gang members who are subsequently released into the Fairfax County community and not turned over to ICE (over the past 5 years)
- e) # of gang members who are considered to be under the DACA program (over the past 5 years)
To each one of these questions I received the same answer:
Response: No report exists that is responsive to your request. The Sheriff’s Office is not required to create a record or produce records from an electronic database in a format not regularly used by the Office. See Virginia Code Section 2.2-3704(G).
What ensued was a tortured back-and-forth with the Sheriff’s office, summarized in this way:
- The Sheriff’s office does not compile these statistics. [Really? The Sheriff’s office does not keep track of the whereabouts of gang members?]
- To track the whereabouts of a gang member, the Sheriff’s staff would have to have a name. And then they would have to research that name to find out what happened post-incarceration. And that information could only be disclosed via a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act request] PAID FOR BY A TAXPAYER like me!
Imagine! Fairfax County law enforcement – hailed as among the most sophisticated in the country — cannot keep track of what happens to incarcerated gang members unless a taxpaying resident makes a FOIA inquiry (at his/her expense) so that a member of the Sheriff’s staff can “research” what happened to the gang member.
Are you buying this? If so, I’ve got a bridge across the Potomac to sell you. If not, demand that Sheriff Kincaid hold a public forum to answer questions about gangs in our midst!
Since June, an average of 12.6 MS-13 gang members have been held in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on any given day. “Other” gang members have averaged 63.4.
But Sheriff Kincaid can’t (or won’t) disclose information about those gang members unless I, a Fairfax County taxpaying resident, pay for a member of her staff to research the answers?